What is a Residual Functional Capacity Form?

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What is a Residual Functional Capacity Form? Residual functional capacity (RFC) forms can help support your Social Security disability claim.  RFC forms explain how your symptoms impact your ability to perform work activities.  Social Security does not award benefits on your diagnosis alone.  Therefore, you must show that your medical conditions keep you from being able to work. 

What is my residual functional capacity?

Residual functional capacity (RFC) is defined as the most you can do despite your medical impairments.  An RFC can include both mental and physical limitations.  Your RFC is very important.  First, Social Security looks at whether your condition meets one of the medial listings.  Most conditions won’t be severe enough to meet one of the medical listings.  Therefore, Social Security needs to look at your residual functional capacity.   

How does Social Security use residual functional capacity forms?

An RFC form helps Social Security understand how your conditions impact your ability to perform activities. The forms are used by SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office to process your claim.  A Social Security medical consultant reviews your medical records.  They complete an RFC form based on the information they have.  Additionally, they will provide an explanation for their findings.  Next, Social Security looks at whether or not your RFC lets them approve your claim. 

Physical Residual Functional Capacity forms

A physical RFC form includes questions about your ability to do things like:

  • How long  you can sit, stand or walk at one time or in an 8 hour work day
  • How much weight you can lift or carry
  • If you need an assistive device such as a cane, walker, wheelchair or crutches
  • Using your arms and hands for activities such as reaching, pushing, pulling, gripping or grasping objects
  • If pain, fatigue, other symptoms or side effects from medications cause limitations with concentration, persistence or pace

Mental Residual Functional Capacity Forms

A mental RFC form includes questions about your ability to do things like:

  • Your ability to understand, remember or carry out instructions or interact with others such as supervisors, co-workers or the general public
  • Your ability to maintain attention and concentration
  • If your symptoms interfere with your ability to show up to work, arrive on time or have to leave early

Residual Functional Capacity forms for your doctors

Your treating doctors may also complete an RFC form.  Having your doctor complete an RFC form can be very helpful.  After all, they should know more about your health than anyone else.  An RFC form should be very detailed.  It should include all your medical symptoms and conditions.  It should also include all of your treatment and any side effects from medications. 

The importance of residual functional capacity forms

Social Security considers more than just your diagnosis.  They need to understand how your conditions affect your functioning.  Therefore, even if you think your medical evidence is strong, RFC forms can help strengthen your case.  Many times, medical records do not clearly translate how your symptoms impact your functioning.  Specifically, your doctor’s RFC form can:

  • Provide your treating doctor’s opinion about how significantly your conditions impact your functioning
  • Provide your doctor’s opinion in the specific way Social Security evaluates functioning
  • Can help win your disability case especially if you are appearing before an Administrative Law Judge

How a residual functional capacity form can help win your case

Social Security considers your age, education and work background when evaluating your claim.  If you are under the age of 50, you must show that you cannot work at all.  Social Security will consider other types of work, not just the work you have done in the past.  An RFC form can help explain why you may not be able to work on a full time basis.

Example 1: Residual functional capacity forms

For example, say you are under the age of 50 and worked before as a cashier.  You have a back injury that interferes with your ability to do this type of work.  You also have side effects from your medications that make you drowsy.  In an RFC form, your doctor states that you cannot sit for more than 4 hours or stand or walk for more than 2 hours in a work day.  Your doctor also states that you have problems with attention and focus due to your medications.  These limitations help support your disability claim because it shows that you could not work a full 8 hour day. 

Residual functional capacity forms and the Grid Rules

Social Security recognizes that it may be harder for older individuals to learn new work.  Therefore, there are more favorable rules for people 50 or older.  These rules are known as the Grid Rules.  They are even more favorable if you are 55 or older.  Essentially, the Grid Rules consider your age, education and work background.  If Social Security finds that you can’t go back to work you’ve done in the past 15 years, you might be disabled. 

Example 2: Residual functional capacity forms and the Grid Rules

For example, Ellen, a 53 year old woman previously worked as a cashier.  She filed for disability because she developed osteoarthritis in her knees.  She can no longer stand or walk for long periods of time.  In an RFC form, her doctor stated that shecould not stand or walk for more than 2 hours a day but can sit for at least 6 hours a day.  Her doctor also reported that she needed a cane when walking.  She cannot work as a cashier.  Even though she can do seated work, the Grid Rules allowed Social Security to approve her case. 

Example 3:  Residual functional capacity forms and the Grid Rules

In another example, Adam, a 57 year old, previously worked as a janitor.  His job required him to lift and carry over 50 pounds occasionally.  Adam injured his back and can no longer perform his job duties.  In an RFC form, Adam’s doctor reported that Adam could not lift more than 20 pounds.  He also reported that Adam could only stand or walk for 4 hours a day.  Even though Adam could do other work, the Grid Rules allowed Social Security to approve his case. 

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