Social Security Disability and the Role of the Residual Functional Capacity Form

When you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD), a disability examiner at the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination, in coordination with a doctor, will make an initial decision about your application. One of the most critical factors in making a decision about your application is your “residual functional capacity” (RFC). The Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) is required by law to assess what kind of work an individual is capable of doing despite any limitations imposed by their impairments. It could turn out that you are incapable of doing any work, partial work, or full work. The RFC determination is made based on all of the relevant evidence in your case record.

After your RFC assessment is complete, the BDD will have a clear idea of whether or not you are capable of meeting the physical, and mental requirements of a job. There is both a physical and mental RFC assessment, which compares your current ratings with the kind of work you have been performing for the past 15 years prior to your disability. Given the results of your RFC, the BDD will consider what other types of work you might be capable of doing.

The physical RFC

The Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form assesses what level of exertion you are capable of, what communicative limitations exist, if any, environmental limitations and what kinds of symptoms you may be experiencing and how they impact your ability to work. The physical RFC also contains the consulting physician’s opinion with regard to how much you are able to lift, how frequently you can lift that amount, how well you can grasp an object, manipulate objects and reach overhead.

The mental RFC

The mental RFC form outlines your mental symptoms that might keep you from being able to do a job. The form contains questions about understanding and memory, sustained concentration and persistence, social interaction and adaptation which is your ability to adapt to changes in the workplace.

What is your work capacity?

The answers on the physical RFC from will determine whether you will be able to do sedentary, light or medium work. Here are a few examples of the exertion levels on an RFC:

  • Sedentary work — You can lift no more than ten pounds at a time, sit most of the time, and have the ability to walk and stand occasionally.
  • Light work — You can lift up to 20 pounds and carry up to ten pounds. It requires frequent walking and standing, pushing and pulling and sedentary tasks.
  • Medium work — You can lift up to 50 pounds, lift or carry up to 25 pounds.
  • Heavy work — You can lift up to 100 pounds and carry up to 50 pounds
  • Very heavy work — You can lift objects weighing more than 100 pounds and lift or carry 50 pounds or more.

It is important to get your physician to complete an RFC form for you, as this will be a far more accurate representation of your true capacity because your doctor knows your medical history and she or he knows what you are capable of doing and what you will not be able to do. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) give greater weight to the opinion of the treating physician for the above-mentioned reasons and even more so when they are consistent with the other medical evidence that you present.

There is a whole host of additional factors that play a role in determining if you are eligible for Social Security Disability including your age, work history, your level of education and training, and all of your job skills and qualifications. The SSA will take all of these into consideration when deciding if you are indeed too disabled to work, or if you might be suited to a different kind of work that fits with your background and your current level of capacity.

If you have questions about filing for social security disability benefits, you are welcome to contact the Philadelphia SSD attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates to discuss your case. Our Social Security Disability lawyers have helped people just like you throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.



Larry Pitt

Larry Pitt

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