When you apply for disability benefits, Social Security uses something called a Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC, assessment to determine your physical capacity to work. A disability examiner completes the RFC assessment based on information from your doctor and your medical records. The RFC assessment measures the extent to which your disability impairs your ability to move and get around.
Your RFC greatly affects your Social Security disability case, but in some cases you can bypass the RFC test and still get approved for benefits. If your medical condition meets the criteria of a Blue Book listing, you can receive an approval without having to submit to further questions or testing. The Blue Book lists the impairments eligible for Social Security disability.
How the RFC Test Works
If you apply for Social Security based on a physical disability, and your condition does not meet the criteria of a Blue Book listing, Social Security will probably have you undergo an RFC test.
To measure physical capabilities, the RFC test looks at two things: the level of physical exertion you can handle and any other physical limitations you have.
If you are applying because of a physical disability, Social Security wants to know your “exertional” limitations. In other words, given your disability, how hard can you physically exert yourself? The SSA has five categories for exertion: very heavy, heavy, medium, light, and sedentary.
Capable of Very Heavy Exertion
If you are capable of very heavy exertion, the SSA believes you can lift more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting, or carry 50 pounds or more.
Capable of Heavy Exertion
If you are capable of heavy exertion, Social Security believes you can lift no more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting, or carry up to 50 pounds.
Capable of Medium Exertion
If you are capable of medium exertion, Social Security believes you can lift no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent lifting, or carry up to 25 pounds.
Capable of Light Exertion
Capable of light exertion means Social Security believes you can lift no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting, and carry objects that weigh up to 10 pounds. You are also capable of performing a job that requires a good deal of walking or standing, or requires a good deal of sitting while pushing and pulling arm and leg controls.
Capable of Sedentary Exertion
At this level, Social Security believes you can lift no more than 10 pounds at a time, and you can carry small items. The SSA considers jobs to be sedentary if they involve sitting most of the time, but may require some walking and standing to carry out job duties.
Incapable of Sedentary Exertion
According to Social Security, you are incapable of sedentary exertion if you cannot sit at a desk for six hours out of an eight-hour shift or lift 10 pounds occasionally.
Other Physical Limitations
Not all physical limitations involve strength, stamina, or lifting ability. For instance, sight, hearing, speaking, and fine motor skills are all physical tasks, yet none are adequately captured in the different exertion levels mentioned above.
To determine your physical limitations not connected to exertion, the RFC test may also measure your ability to perform other tasks, like climbing, bending, or using your fine motor skills. It may also test hearing, vision, and speaking ability.
How Social Security Uses Your RFC Test Results
When the disability examiner completes your RFC assessment, Social Security uses the results to determine the type of work you can and cannot do. It compares this information to your work history — not just your most recent job but every job you have ever performed. If Social Security believes you are physically capable of returning to a previous job, it might use this as grounds to deny your application.
As part of the application process, Social Security also asks for your educational history and job-related skills. It uses this information to match you to available jobs based on your RFC test results.
So, even if you are incapable of returning to any job you have done in the past, Social Security could deny your application if it feels another job exists that your education, skills, and disability allow you to do.
Qualifying Based on the Blue Book
If you qualify for disability based on a Blue Book listing, you might avoid the RFC process. The Blue Book is Social Security’s master list of conditions eligible for benefits. Under each condition is a long list of requirements you must meet to get approved for that condition. Your lawyer can help you determine if you should qualify based on the Blue Book.
Call 866-628-8179 Today for a Free Consultation With a Social Security Disability Lawyer
If you have questions or concerns about your Social Security disability application, a disability lawyer from the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC can help. We want to help you get through the application process as efficiently as possible, so you can start collecting the benefits you deserve. Call 866-628-8179 today.