How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Whether Social Security decides you can do medium, light, or sedentary work can determine if you get disability

When you apply for disability on the basis of a physical medical impairment, Social Security obtains your medical records and determines how limited you are in your ability to perform normally daily activities. They look at a wide variety of functions, but it always comes down to a rating of sedentary, light, or medium.

To simplify things, if you get a sedentary RFC, it means SSA thinks you can do sedentary work but nothing more than that. If you get a light RFC, it means that SSA thinks you can do light work, but nothing more than that. If you get a medium RFC, it means that SSA thinks you can do medium work but nothing more than that.

Obviously, it will be in the person's best interests to have the most restrictive RFC possible because with more restrictions you are considered to have less of a realistic chance of being able to work. That is why a light RFC makes a case stronger than a medium RFC. A sedentary RFC makes a case stronger than either a light or medium RFC.

With these explanations in mind, I'd like to share a situation that demonstrates, beyond the obvious, why medical records are so important on a disability claim.

A person who applied for disability, had their case looked at, and was past age 55 was given a medium RFC. Look here to see the definition of RFC. A medium RFC means that Social Security believes that the person has the capability of lifing 25 lbs frequently and 50 lbs occasionally. That determination can be made by a judge at a hearing, or if the case is at the application level or reconsideration appeal level, it can be made by a disability examiner.

However, who makes the decision is not the important issue for this example. The point being made is that a claimant, due to their age (past age 55) might have been approved for disablity if the examiner or judge who had looked at the available medical records in the case had instead concluded that they should be given something less than a medium RFC rating; perhaps a light RFC (meaning they could be expected to lift 20lbs occasionally and 10lbs frequently.

Why would a light RFC versus a medium RFC be given? It depends on how severe the person's impairments seem to be. Obviously, a person with more functional limitations would generally be thought capable of doing less. And its not just lifting we are talking about. A person's condition, or conditions, may result in lessened ability to bend, crouch, reach, use fine finger movements, hear, see, tolerate heights, sit or stand beyond a certain amount of time. And those are just a few ways in which a person can be physically functionally limited.

On the mental side, mental conditions (such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, autism, impaired intellect, etc, may affect a person's ability to learn and retain new information, pay attention, and concentrate.

All of these limitations will affect a person's ability to engage in work activity, of course. And that is why Social Security gives RFC ratings for both mental and physical impairments. So that the examiner or judge can decide whether or not a person can go back to their past work, or do any other kind of work.

And this is a clear example of why medical record documentation is so important. It establishes not simply a diagnosis, or a prognosis, but also functional limitations. And functional limitations guide residual functional capacity ratings that direct the outcome of Social Security Disability and SSI disability cases.

The scenario also illustrates how important it is to have a good relationship with your treating physician.

Ideally, you want to have a doctor that has a long (long is always a relative term) and established history of providing medical treatment. This may make it more likely for the doctor to note functional limitations that are associated with your medical or mental condition (or not). It may also make it more likely for the doctor, upon request, to provide a medical source statement or RFC form (different terms for the same thing) that is detailed enough to have a favorable impact on your case.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

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Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

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How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

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SSI disability for children with ADHD

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Related pages:

How long can you receive SSI or Social Security Disability benefits?
A disability lawyer question
Will my disbility be stopped if I work?
Do I lose my disability benefits if I go to school?
Who makes the Determination of a Social Security Disability Claim?
Application Requirements For Disability - What Do I Need To Start The Claim?
How are Decisions on SSDI and SSI Disability Claims made by SSA?
What medical conditions do they Award Disability Benefits for?
Disability requirements and how to file in Virginia
How long does a request for a disability hearing appeal take?
Tips, how to apply for disability
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These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

What Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Disability for a mental condition
Tips for Filing for disability
Financial Help Filing For Disability
Checklist for filing for disability, SSI or SSD
Qualifying for disability benefits, how to qualify for SSD or SSI
Filing a disability application: the steps
Disability award notice, how long it takes to get benefits
How to Apply for Disability - Where do I go?
What makes you eligible to get disability?
How to check my disability claim status?
Can a disability attorney speed up a disability case?
SSI disability Award Letter
How long to get approved for disability?
How to apply for disability benefits
How long does disability back pay take?
What are qualifications for getting disability?
What medical conditions can you file disability for?
Disability Lawyer help questions
Social Security Attorneys, Disability Representatives

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.