For some Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants, proving their eligibility for benefits is a straightforward process under an existing Social Security Administration listing. Others, however, may find that their mental or physical impediments do not precisely meet an existing listing. In this case, applicants must show that their condition severely limits their daily life and inhibits their ability to work by completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) evaluation. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our Social Security attorneys have helped numerous Massachusetts residents understand the RFC process and prepare for an evaluation.The Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation
When disability applicants have medical conditions that do not precisely mirror the mental and physical impairments set forth in the SSA’s book of listings, disability examiners must use alternative means to accurately evaluate whether an applicant is disabled. In these circumstances, they turn to a residual functional capacity evaluation. During the evaluation process, a disability claims examiner will work with an independent medical professional at the Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency to perform an RFC assessment.
Typically, the assessment includes evaluating the existing medical evidence that you have provided, including your medical records, testimony from family and friends, and any other documentation that supports your claim of disability. However, in some circumstances, an RFC evaluation may also require you to meet with an evaluator, typically a physician, who will do an independent medical examination to ascertain your condition and what symptoms or complications you face.What Does an RFC Determine?
The focus of an RFC evaluation is to determine the level of activity you have and, in turn, what type of work you are capable of doing. Based on your existing limitations, the DDS will determine whether you are capable of sedentary, light, or medium work, or no work at all. Sedentary work means that you primarily need to sit, but you can walk and stand on occasion. Light work means that you can lift up to 20 pounds on occasion and can walk and stand fairly frequently during the course of your job. Medium work means you can lift up to 50 pounds on occasion and otherwise move around up to 25 pounds at a time without much difficulty. While individuals may also be capable of heavy or very heavy work, this is rarely seen in disability evaluations. Thus, for example, if you are unable to walk or stand for long periods due to the lingering effects of a stroke, you would likely be evaluated as capable of, at most, sedentary work.
Once your RFC is completed, it will be used to first consider whether you could do the job you previously held. If so, you will not be found to be disabled. If not, the disability examiner will then go on to consider whether, given your RFC, you could complete other jobs that exist in the national economy. If not, you will be determined to be disabled.Legal Guidance for Massachusetts Residents Seeking Government Benefits
There are many steps that SSDI applicants can take to prepare themselves for an RFC assessment and improve their chances of obtaining benefits. First, it is important to provide as comprehensive of a set of medical records as possible, including all the documentation regarding your symptoms and the duration and intensity of such symptoms. Second, you may wish to consider having your treating physician complete an RFC form, where he or she can provide information on the impact that your condition has on your ability to work. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our government benefits attorneys work with individuals in Massachusetts who are suffering from a medical disability or mental health condition to prepare an application for benefits. Based in Boston, we help individuals throughout the surrounding areas, such as the Merrimack River area and Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk Counties. Contact us for more information at (800) 367-0871 or online.