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SSD SSI Definitions
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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Using an RFC form to qualify for disability at a hearing
RFC stands for something known as residual functional capacity and the term basically refers to what level of functionality a person possesses. When a person files for disability, the disability examiner who handles the case will have the task of determining what their RFC is. This is basically where the decision on the case gets made because the RFC assessment will determine A) whether or not the applicant can return to to their past work and B) whether or not the applicant can perform some type of other work.
An RFC assessment is made by reading an applicant's medical records and then ascertaining both what the person is no longer capable of doing and, at the same time, what they are still capable of doing. For example, an RFC assessment will address a person's ability to lift a certain amount of weight, their ability to use their hands, their ability to stoop or to crouch. It can also address non-physical functional considerations such as the ability to concentrate, persist, learn, and remember. Not surprisingly, RFC assessments of what a person can and can no longer do are made on something called an RFC form.
However, what may be surprising to anyone who has never worked inside the disability system (I'm a former disability examiner myself) is that social security never sends an RFC form to an applicant's own doctor. Instead, they have one of their own doctors---referred to as a medical consultant and assigned to a case processing unit with disability examiners---complete the RFC (which may, depending on the nature of the impairment, be a mental RFC or a physical RFC).
While this may seem reasonable to some, consider the following facts:
1. Social Security doctors, i.e. medical consultants who work alongside disability examiners, work for social security. This is a redundant statement, but the purpose is to drive home a point. These doctors are not necessarily objective.
2. A social security doctor has never met nor treated the disability applicant that he or she will complete an RFC form on.
3. The vast majority of all disability applications---and social security doctors are involved in these cases---are denied.
Now, consider this---wouldn't it make more sense for social security to send an RFC to the claimant's own doctor, particularly since this doctor has actually seen and treated the claimant? It certainly would. It might also mean that more claims would be approved.
At the hearing level, of course, where the decision-maker is a disability judge and the claimant is often represented, a good disability attorney will have obtained a completed a RFC form from the claimant's doctor or doctors. And very often an RFC form at this level will have the notable effect of winning the case. Simply because disability judges respect the opinions of treating physicians and a claimant's treating physician is not in the employment of the social security administration.
RFC forms tend to produce the best benefit at the hearing level. However, in certain cases, they can definitely improve one's chances of winning disability benefits at the disability application level.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
The SSDI SSI disability application, how to file
Working and getting Disability
See a doctor regularly when applying for disability
Filing for disability with aneurysm
Applyling for child disability, getting records
Pain medication and applying for disability
How many disability appeals are won and what are the chances?
What do I need to give Social Security for a disability determination
Applying for disability with seizures
How to file for disability in Utah
Help your disability case with a congressional inquiry
Contacting Social Security about the status of your disability claim
How to qualify for disability with depression
How to file for disability in Indiana
Denied Twice For SSD or SSI Disability, What Do I Do?
Personality Disorder and Filing for Disability
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits
Social Security Disability attorneys and representatives
What is the status of your social security disability or SSI case
Rules and requirements to apply for disability
Will I qualify for disability?
Apply for disability for any medical condition
Steps and Tips for requesting a disability hearing
If your disability claim is approved or denied
Social Security Award letter for SSD, SSI
Temporary Social Security Disability SSI
Social Security Disability SSI reviews
How social security evaluates attention deficit
Filing for disability with Post polio syndrome
Tips for Getting Disability Approved
How far back Social Security will pay SSDI or SSI
SSI award notices are received by approved claimants
Winning and getting disability with a mental condition
Getting disability for rheumatoid arthritis
Can you work if you get Disability?
Who qualifies for SSI and how
How to file for disability and where to apply
Conditions that may qualify as disability
Denied on a disability application
Answering questions at a Social Security Disability hearing