Residual Functional Capacity

The Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is a medical examination the SSA looks over when determining if you qualify for disability benefits. The RFC is an assessment of your physical and mental limitations in the workforce caused by your disabling condition.

When you apply for disability benefits, your case will be sent to your local Disability Determinations Services (DDS) office. Here a disability claims examiner will review your application and will develop a report while making his or her decision to approve your case. Part of the report requires the examiner to take the case to one of the DDS’s medical or psychological consultants (doctors) who will review your medical documentation and work history to determine your functional limitations and job restrictions.

Depending on the disabling condition you applied for, your disability will be evaluated under the physical RFC form or the mental RFC form.

Physical RFC

If you suffer from a physical disabling condition, your disability will be evaluated under the physical RFC form. A DDS medical consultant will review your medical documentation and your work history, and will assess your ability to perform basic work tasks. Using this information, the consultant will determine your residual functional capacity for work activity on a regular and reoccurring basis. A physical RFC will give you an “exertional” level, which is the level of activity you are capable of despite your condition. Listed below are the different levels of exertion.

Physical Residual Functional Capacity Forms

Sedentary work

You are able to lift up to 10 pounds at a time and can occasionally lift or carry small objects. Sedentary work involves mostly sitting but does require some walking and standing. Many unskilled sedentary jobs do require dexterity or work involving the use of hands and fingers.

Light work

You are able to lift up to 20 pounds at a time and can frequently lift or carry objects weighing 10 pounds or less. Light work involves a good amount of walking or standing. A job that involves a lot of sitting but requires some pushing and pulling would also be categorized within this area.

Medium work

You are able to lift up to 50 pounds at a time and can frequently lift or carry objects weighing 25 pounds or less. Medium work involves standing or walking along with the ability to use the arms and hands (grabbing, holding, turning etc.) for at least 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. Medium work can also require bending, stooping (bending the spine at the waist), and crouching.

Heavy work

You are able to lift up to 100 pounds at a time, and can frequently lift or carry objects weighing 50 pounds or less. Heavy work involves almost full exertion of the body.

Very heavy work

You are able to lift up more than 100 pounds and can frequently lift or carry objects weighing 50 pounds or more. Very heavy work involves full exertion of the body.

Mental RFC

If you suffer from a mental illness, your disability will be evaluated under the mental RFC form. A DDS psychologist or psychiatrist will review your claim and will assess your current mental state. The consultant will determine if you are capable of social interaction in a work setting, able to concentrate and retain attention in a work setting, and can engage in SRRTs (simple, routine, repetitive tasks).

The medical consultant will list all non-exertional limitations, which are functional limitations that prevent you from performing non-strength-related work activities. Such activities include:

  • Finger and hand movement
  • Crawling
  • Climbing
  • Concentrating
  • Hearing
  • Paying attention
  • Remembering detailed instructions
  • Seeing
  • Speaking

Mental Residual Functional Capacity Forms

Your treating doctor and RFC forms

You have the option to have your own treating doctor fill out the RFC form but the SSA will not inform you of this unless you ask. Having your doctor fill out the RFC form provides an advantage because your doctor is more knowledgeable about your impairments than the DDS consultant who will never meet you in person. The RFC forms are rather tedious and lengthy so your doctor may charge a fee to complete it.

More weight

The Social Security Administration is required to give your treating doctor’s opinion more weight in the decision to award or deny you disability benefits. The SSA knows that your treating doctor will have a better and more informative opinion about your condition than a medical consultant since he or she has been consistently giving you medical attention for your disability. Administrative law judges (ALJ) are also required to give your doctor’s opinion more weight during an appeals hearing.