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Understanding Your Residual Functional Capacity

Cutter Hall Karlock, LLC Jan. 30, 2019

If you are sick or injured, you may be considering your future, especially if your condition has prevented you from working or is making it increasingly difficult to do your job. Many Ohio workers in similar situations explore the option of applying for disability to help them meet their financial obligations. It is difficult to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, so it may help to understand the requirements of the Social Security Administration.

You may know that the SSA defines a disability as a diagnosed medical condition that prevents you from working for at least one year. Part of concluding if your condition prevents you from working is determining your residual functional capacity.

What is my residual functional capacity?

Disability does not simply mean that you are unable to continue in your present job, but that you also cannot perform any activity that will allow you to be gainfully employed. If you are able to earn money, even if it is not in your chosen field, the SSA will likely deny your application for disability benefits. SSA agents will weigh many factors to determine your residual functional capacity, which is how capable you are of working in spite of your condition, including:

  • Can you stand for any length of time?

  • Are you able to lift at least 10 pounds?

  • Do you retain any dexterity in your hands that would allow you to perform sedentary manual work?

  • Can you work from a seated position?

  • Are you younger than age 50?

If the answer to these and other questions is yes, the SSA may conclude that you are able to find work to support yourself despite your condition. However, agents will also ask how these factors contribute to making your condition disabling:

  • How much pain do you suffer?

  • What activities increase your pain?

  • How long does the pain last?

  • Is your doctor managing your pain with medication that may cause negative side effects?

  • What other pain treatments do you use?

  • Do you have restrictions on your mobility or activity level?

Your answers to these questions may greatly reduce your RFC.

Other problems may interfere with your work

Even if the above tests conclude that you have enough RFC to seek gainful employment, you may have other issues that make it impossible for you to hold a job to earn money. For example, if your condition or its necessary medications make you anxious or depressed, if you have digestive issues, if you are constantly dizzy, sleepy or fatigued from your medication or condition, SSA examiners may conclude your RFC is too low for you to work.

Proving you have little or no RFC can be difficult, and careful preparation and attention to detail during the application process is essential. Many Ohio residents seeking disability have an advantage when they have the assistance of an attorney who has experience successfully guiding sick and injured people through the disability application process.