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Residual functional capacity is how Social Security decides you can't work
When a Social Security Disability or SSI disability case is approved or denied by a disability examiner, the disability decison is based on the claimant's ability to work, or inability to work. To be considered uanble to work and, thus, have eligibility for disability benefits, a claimant must be found to be unable to perform past work (jobs that have been done in the last 15 years) and also unable to perform other work (jobs that a person might conceivably do, based on their age, education, skills, and functional limitations).
Sounds fairly simple, right? However, the most obvious question is...how does social security determine if a person can no longer work?
This is how: after a claimant's medical records are collected, they are read and analyzed to determine to what extent, and in what ways, a person may be limited by their physical impairments, mental impairments, or both. This determination of a claimant's functional limitations is translated into something called an RFC, which stands for residual functional capacity.
Residual functional capacity can be thought of as "what a person is still able to do, despite the effects of their impairment or impairments". A residual functional capacity assessment is written up on an RFC form by a disability examiner (examiners work at state agencies that make disability decisions for the social security administration) and it is valid after it receives the signature of a unit medical consultant (an M.D.) or a unit psychological consultant (a Ph.D. level psychologist).
In many claims, of course, since a claimant will have both physical and mental conditions that need to be evaluated, there will be both a mental and a physical residual functional capacity assessment performed by the disability examiner and the doctors who are assigned to the examiner's unit.
Residual functional capacity is basically a way to give a claimant a rating, based on what their medical records have to say about their condition. And, based on A. the residual functional capacity assessment that is determined for the claimant, B. the type of work a claimant has done in the past, and C. a claimant's education, age, and work skills (which will decide the other types of work which a claimant might possibly be able to do), a disability claimant will either be denied for disability or awarded disability benefits.
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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.