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

Social Security Disability, SSI, and Residual Functional Capacity, RFC

Residual functional capacity is simply defined as the remaining functional capacity a person has in spite of possessing a physical or mental impairment.

Residual functional capacity is a cornerstone of the SSI and Social Security Disability evaluation process because the rating, or assessment, that is given to a claimant will determine whether nor not they will qualify for disability and be awarded SSD or SSI benefits.

How is residual functional capacity measured? A disability examiner (or a judge if the case has gone to the hearing level) will use the information contained in the available medical records to get an idea of how a person is physically or mentally limited.

"Available medical records" will include all the medical evidence that has been received from the claimant's doctors, clinics, and hospitals. It can also include any supporting statements received from the claimant's doctors, particularly the claimant's treating physician (a treating physician is a doctor who has a history of treating a particular condition for a person and is, therefore, most suitably qualified to speak as to how it affects the individual).

Medical records, for the most part, do not contain references to specific problems that a person might have as a result of their condition. For example, difficulty using a pen or eating utensils if the person has carpal tunnel syndrome, or difficulty doing desk work if they have chronic back or hip pain. Or difficulty with short-term memory if they have a mental disorder or a head injury.

In most cases, doctors are more focused on just putting basic treatment information in their notes and do not ordinarily record information about functional limitations.

For this reason, disability examiners who are trying to extrapolate what a claimant's current RFC, or residual functional capacity, might be will also conduct telephone interviews with both a claimant and someone who knows about their condition (this person is known as a third-party contact). The purpose of this type of interview is to gain insight into the claimant's activities of daily living (e.g. does the person have trouble vacuuming, making shopping lists, trouble lifting a laundry basket). The reasoning behind this is that having trouble with normal daily activities may also mean having trouble with many different types of job duties.

Using information obtained from both the medical evidence as well as from ADL (activities of daily living) questionaires, a disability examiner will attempt to discern how functionally limited a claimant is. And this assessment will be recorded on an RFC form. How valid is the RFC form?

In most instances, a disability examiner will be required to have their assessment reviewed by a medical doctor or a psychologist who works in their case processing unit to ensure that they have made an accurate assessment.

How does the RFC assessment affect the outcome of a disability case? The assessment of the individual's remaining capabilities is compared to whatever type of work they did in the past. If they are currently too limited to return to one of their former jobs performed within the past 15 years, they may possibly qualify for disability.

However, this is further contingent upon them not having sufficient education, training, and remaining physical and mental capabilities to learn some type of other work.

Note: very often, claimants are given both a physical and a mental rating since a high percentage of claimants file on the basis of multiple physical and mental conditions.

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

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

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

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Social Security Disability, SSI, and Residual Functional Capacity, RFC
How does a Medical Source Statement (RFC Form) help win a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim?
How does Social Security Disability decide that you cannot work?
Social Security Disability SSI - Mental and Physical Residual Functional Capacity
Medical Vocational Allowance Approvals for Social Security Disability and SSI
Social Security Disability Medical Evaluation Form, Can A Doctor Be Forced to Complete One?
The Social Security Disability Decision and Your Ability to Work
Will my doctor charge me for a letter for my Social Security Disability claim?
Can I get disability based on my high blood pressure and my age?
How do you get meds in the two wait for Medicare after an Approval for Disability?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

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.