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How does Social Security assess your physical residual functional capacity?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Physical residual functional capacity is a measure of a person’s functional abilities. The Social Security Administration considers RFC when evaluating claims involving medical conditions that are not automatically recognized as disabling. As disability attorneys in Chicago can attest, RFC evaluations often play decisive roles in Social Security Disability claims. Fortunately, the SSA considers many factors to accurately assess physical RFC.

Analyzing limitations

An RFC analysis accounts for any exertional limitations an applicant suffers from. These limitations are impairments that prevent an applicant from meeting the strength requirements of a job. For instance, standing, walking, pushing and lifting all require a certain level of strength. When evaluating RFC, the SSA considers a person’s limitations in performing these tasks.

Non-exertional limitations may also impact a person’s RFC, as disability attorneys in Chicago can confirm. Non-exertional limitations may be cognitive, affecting a person’s concentration, comprehension or emotional state. The SSA also recognizes more physical non-exertional limitations, including the following:

  • Environmental intolerance — some medical conditions may preclude work in certain environments. For instance, people with respiratory conditions may not be able to work near fumes or in dusty environments.
  • Manipulative or postural issues — some people may have trouble with motions such as bending, crouching or performing fine tasks. These restrictions may prevent a person from performing work that he or she is otherwise strong enough to perform.
  • Sensory deficits — hearing or vision loss may also affect a person’s ability to do certain work. These conditions do not have to be independently disabling to merit consideration.

Based on an applicant’s exertional limitations, the SSA deems the applicant capable of one of five work categories. These range from sedentary work to very heavy work. Then, the SSA considers whether non-exertional limitations affect the applicant’s ability to perform work in the designated category.

Documenting RFC

The SSA considers various forms of evidence when evaluating RFC. The SSA weighs medical evidence, including objective tests and treatment history. In some cases, the SSA may order a consultative exam with an independent physician to secure additional information. The SSA also accepts statements from physicians about the applicant’s functional abilities. Descriptive statements from personal sources, such as family members, can also help reveal a person’s RFC.

People claiming SSD benefits can also ask their physicians to complete an RFC assessment. The RFC form asks specific questions about an applicant’s strength. The form allows for descriptions of postural, manipulative, environmental and sensory limitations. Physicians can also use the form to document the applicant’s symptoms and functional abilities.

A completed RFC assessment can strengthen an SSD claim, as any disability attorneys in Chicago can explain. This assessment helps ensure that the SSA has accurate and comprehensive information when making the final claim decision.

Categories: Social Security