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How Is Residual Functional Capacity Used To Determine Eligibility For Social Security Disability Benefits



Impairments and associated symptoms can cause physical and mental limitations that can affect workplace performance. A Residual Functional Capacity Assessment is one of the critical tools utilized by the Social Security Administration in denying or approving disability claims.

What Is Residual Functional Capacity

According to Social Security Administration disability guidelines, residual functional capacity is the most a person is able to accomplish in a work setting despite physical or mental limitations. A determination of disability is primarily based on an individual's functional abilities, as opposed to medical history and diagnosis. Several considerations are involved during the assessment of residual functional capacity.

  • A person's ability to meet physical and mental requirements required in his or her employment
  • Whether a person is able to perform the duties required in past relevant employment
  • Whether a person is able to make adjustments in order to engage in any other type of employment available in the national economy
  • Whether a person is able to perform work in sedentary, light or medium categories

How Is Residual Functional Capacity Used To Determine Disability

Once a disability claim is filed, a claims examiner in the Disability Determination Services (DDS) department reviews medical documentation and prepares an initial report detailing reasons for denial or acceptance. As part of the initial determination process, the case file is reviewed by a DDS medical consultant, a co-worker of the claims examiner. The DDS consultant prepares a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form, rating the claimant's abilities to work. The RFC form reflects the medical consultant's subjective opinion concerning a claimant's limitations. RFC forms prepared by DDS consultants typically result in disability claim denials as they lack pertinent medical information that can only be provided by a treating physician.

The Importance Of Obtaining A Residual Functional Capacity Assessment From A Treating Physician

RFC forms prepared by your treating physician contain an accurate assessment of your disability and limitations. The Social Security Administration places significant weight on the medical opinions expressed by treating physicians. The standard Physician Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form contains questions with check-the-box answers regarding symptoms, diagnoses and limitations. Limitations listed on the RFC form pertain to exertion, posture, manipulation, vision and communication.

Your treating physician is best suited to provide a professional interpretation of your condition. Your doctor can provide required medical evidence supporting your disability claim as opposed to depending on the form prepared by a DDS consultant. A medical report prepared by your physician can be instrumental in the success of your disability claim. Your doctor is qualified to respond to questions concerning your specific limitations in strength, mobility, range of motion and your ability to function in a work setting.

How Can A Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me Obtain Social Security Disability Benefits

Filing a Social Security disability claim is often burdensome and complex. Most claims are initially denied. The assistance of a Social Security disability lawyer can be instrumental in overturning your denial and awarding you the benefits you deserve.

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