Many Social Security Disability applicants do not realize just how intensive the claim process is until they begin filling out the necessary paperwork and forms that are required to file a disability claim with the Social Security Administration. The amount of paperwork required can be overwhelming, to say the least.
Understanding the forms that are needed can help alleviate some of the stress associated with the disability claim process. However, there is one form that is not actually required by you, as an applicant. Nonetheless, this form should definitely be submitted. This form is the Residual Functional Capacity Form, also known as the RFC.
The Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) will help you with your claim for Social Security Disability in both the initial application process and the appeal hearing. It's a good idea to have your treating physician complete this form at the start of your Social Security Disability claim or SSI claim.
The following information can help you understand what an RFC form is, how to fill it out and how to file the form with the Social Security Administration.
If you don’t qualify for disability benefits using a Blue Book listing, you may still qualify using a residual functional capacity (RFC) form. The RFC is available on the Social Security Administration’s website.
The RFC is very detailed, and it specifies what you can and cannot do. It details what you can and cannot do as well as your restrictions and limitations.
For example, it may say that you cannot lift more than 5 pounds, you cannot squat and reach, or you cannot bend and stretch. It will indicate how long you can stand, how frequently you must be repositioned, and the distance that you can walk.
If you have the form completed by your treating physician, it can be very beneficial in the outcome of your disability claim. After all, your treating physician should know more about your health than anyone else.
The form must be completed in detail. When Disability Determination Services (DDS) is reviewing your file and sorting through your records, they will complete an RFC for you based on the information that they have. This RFC will tell them if you can work or not.
You want to provide hard medical evidence and the most detailed and most current medical files to support your claim, so you can make sure that your claim is fairly assessed and that you can clearly show DDS how your medical issues affect your daily living as well as your ability to work.
An RFC should be very detailed, and indicate all your medical symptoms, all your conditions, all your treatments and side effects, and all your restrictions and limitations so a vocational expert can clearly determine what kind of work – if any – you can do. This form can have a huge impact on the outcome of your disability claim.
What Is The RFC Form?
The RFC form is the Residual Functional Capacity form that helps the Social Security Administration rate the functional capacity of a Social Security Disability applicant after taking the applicant's mental or physical disability into account. These forms are used by the SSA's Disability Determination Services office to process a claim for disability benefits. An RFC form can help those who do not meet a Blue Book listing qualify for benefits.
Your Social Security Disability application cannot be processed with the completion of the SSA's RFC forms. However, you do not fill out this form yourself. The adjudicator reviewing your claim takes your file to the SSA's Disability Determination Services office to have a DDS specialist fill out the RFC for your file.
What the SSA does not often tell applicants is that you can have this form filled out by your doctor as well, which can increase your chances of being awarded Social Security Disability benefits.
How to File the RFC
When you submit a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, the adjudicator reviewing your file will present your case to a DDS specialist, who will fill out an RFC and will rate your residual functional capacity. This form will be used to support either the approval or denial of your Social Security Disability claim.
Consider Having Your Doctor Fill Out the Form For You
In order to increase your chances of winning your Social Security Disability case, you should have your own doctor fill out an RFC form as well. Because your own doctor will have a better understanding of how your disability affects you, they will be able to more accurately present your limitations and your residual functional capacity to the Social Security Administration.
If you want your doctor to fill out an RFC for you, you will need to bring the form in for them to fill out. You can request the RFC form from your local Social Security office or you can download it directly from the Social Security website. Once you have obtained the form, take it with you to your doctor's office and have them complete the form for you.
Once your doctor has completed and signed the RFC form, you will need to submit the form with the other required paperwork when filing your Social Security Disability claim.
While the RFC form may not make much of a difference during the initial stage of the Social Security Disability application process, it is said that the administrative law judges who review Social Security Disability appeals often give great weight to RFC forms that are completed by an applicant's physician.
If you did not present an RFC form with your initial Social Security Disability application, you should definitely submit one to the judge who will be presiding over your disability hearing.
Residual Functional Capacity Form vs Medical Records
Sometimes the SSA is unable to reach a favorable decision about an applicant’s claim for disability benefits based on medical records as they don’t provide enough evidence proving the applicant’s disability is likely to last for at least 12 months.
In this case it is preferable for the applicant to take part in a residual functional capacity (RFC) test which emphasizes the limitations of this person due to the disability.
Medical records often describe the symptoms but they don’t make any judgments on how the symptoms affect the ability of the victim to take part in certain tasks.
This is when the RFC plays an important role in determining the extent of a person’s disability. It tests the applicant’s mental and physical limitations.
The mental limitations are assessed based on the following abilities:
- to understand, remember and carry out instructions;
- to stick to a routine without the need for special supervision;
- to respond in the expected way to supervisor’s criticisms;
- to perform tasks to a schedule;
- to make simple decisions and judgments;
- to maintain attention and concentrate for long periods of time;
- to interact in the expected way with the public;
- to get along with coworkers or peers without causing a distraction.
The physical limitations are tested based on how long a person can stand in one place, the weight of a load that can be carried and how much pushing and pulling the person is capable of doing.
There are also non-exertion limitations which are assessed too, which test your ability to do any of the following:
- stoop, crawl, crouch or climb;
- be exposed to extreme temperatures, dust, sunlight or fumes;
- use of the hands to write, type, or reach or handle objects,
- ability to see, hear, or speak.
Determining If You Can Work
The SSA and DDS will review the specific details of your case as well as all your medical records made available to them to determine if you can work, and if you can work, what kind of work you are capable of doing.
There are different kinds of work that an individual can perform. Sedentary work is light duty and requires minimal physical activity. This may include filing documents. However, you will need to be able to perform fingering tasks to sort the papers and separate them, and you must be able to see well enough to determine which paper goes where.
Skilled work requires an education and skills. As an example, an educator is a form of skilled worker. In this situation, if an educator has suffered a stroke that affects his or her cognitive abilities, so they cannot remember things, and they have mobility issues, then it has impacted his or her ability to perform their job. As an example, if the right side of the body is affected and he or she is right-handed and can no longer write on the whiteboard, that can affect his or her ability to perform routine work duties.
The Different Levels of Work
You should familiarize yourself with the different levels of work considered by the SSA and DDS. The national economy is classified on an exertional level with work as sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy.
Each of the different functional levels is defined by the extent of its requirements in the primary strength activities, which include sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling.
According the medical-vocational rules that are used for disability claims, there are 1,600 sedentary and light occupations plus 2,500 sedentary, light, and medium occupations with each representing multiple jobs in the nationwide workforce.
When the RFC is reviewed, it is considered as to whether the individual has an RFC that indicates they can perform a full range of unskilled occupations as they relate to the work table that is used.
Your educational background, work history, age, and medical conditions are taken into consideration together to determine if you are able to perform any kind of work, and if so, what kind of work you are capable of doing.
A vocational expert will then determine what jobs you can do and the availability of those jobs in your local area. The vocational expert will then make a recommendation to DDS or the administrative law judge as to whether you are capable of working and earning a living or if you qualify for disability benefits.
A very detailed RFC will indicate what you can and cannot do. As an example, it may indicate that you cannot stand more than an hour, or you may have to reposition every 90 minutes.
It could indicate that you cannot lift more than 5 pounds and you are unable to carry anything a considerable distance. It may say that you cannot walk more than 500 feet, and you may have problems using your hands that makes sorting paperwork or fingering tasks impossible.
Because of edema and bone and joint pain, you may not be able to stand, squat, or bend frequently. Because of visual problems, you may not be able to read manuals and instructions. Your medication may cause drowsiness and dizziness, so the physician may indicate that you cannot use heavy machinery, drive, or operate equipment that could be dangerous.
Consult with a Social Security Attorney
If you have obtained legal representation to represent you through your disability claim and at your disability hearing, he or she can obtain the proper RFC form and have it completed by your physician. Your lawyer will then submit the form for review so it will be considered at your disability hearing.
If you have not yet hired an attorney to represent you in your Social Security Disability claim, it may be in your best interest to consider doing so.
Statistics show that applicants who have legal representation during the application and appeal process are more likely to be awarded benefits than applicants who choose to represent themselves.