Social Security Disability and Work: Determining Residual Functional Capacity

January 20, 2013 by

For Social Security Disability, work ability may depend upon what is one's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). This can play a critical role in determining whether a claimant is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or SSI. If a claimant’s impairments do not satisfy the requirements of the Listings of Impairments, the Social Security Administration must determine his or her RFC.

An award of benefits is more likely for claimants who can engage in few or no work-related activities as a result of their impairments. Benefits will not be awarded if the claimant is able to work and support themselves.

Social Security defines Residual Functional Capacity as “the most you can still do despite your limitations.” In other words, it is whatever work-related activities you still can do despite the limiting effects of all of your physical and mental impairments.

How Residual Functional Capacity is Assessed for Social Security Disability and Work Ability Determinations

To determine a claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity and SSDI benefits eligibility, Social Security reviews the claimant’s medical records and other evidence to answer the following questions in regard to their impairments and benefits need:

  • What, if any, ability does the claimant have to perform the physical demands of work activity, such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling or other physical functions?
  • What, if any, ability does the claimant have to perform the mental demands of work activity, such as understanding, remembering and carrying out instructions?
  • Is the claimant able to respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers and work pressures in a job setting?
  • Do the claimant’s impairments impose any other restrictions on work activity, such as asthma preventing a person from working around dust or other pulmonary irritants?
  • Considering the claimant’s limitations, is he or she able to perform any work they’ve done in the past?
  • Considering the claimant’s limitations, is he or she able to perform any type of work without additional training?

More information regarding Social Security Disability and work ability measured by Residual Functional Capacity:

Social Security Disability (SSDI) Benefits Claims
Impairment Benefits Through Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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