The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes strict criteria to qualify for disability benefits based on your diagnosis in the Blue Book. However, you can still qualify for benefits even if you do not meet one of these listings. This is possible based on your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is a statement of how much you are still capable of despite your impairments.
The examiner from Disability Determination Services assigns your RFC based on an assessment of your abilities and limitations. This assessment takes all of your impairments, symptoms, and side effects of medications into account. This includes chronic pain, physical limitations, cognitive and emotional issues, and other problems that might prevent you from working.
For more information on the RFC process, contact the disability attorneys at Berger and Green at 412-661-1400 today. We can review your information to see if you qualify for disability benefits—even if you do not meet a Blue Book listing.
How Does the RFC Assessment Process Work?
Your local SSA field office will ensure your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application meets all the technical criteria to qualify for benefits. Only once your claim passes this step in the process will the SSA forward your file to Disability Determination Services to see if you meet the definition of disabled. Disability Determination Services will request all of your medical records, test results, and other documentation from your medical providers. Then, the examiner will check to see if you meet the criteria under any applicable impairment listing in the Blue Book. If you do not, they will evaluate your eligibility for benefits based on an RFC assessment.
The goal of the RFC assessment is to determine the work tasks you are still capable of doing despite your impairments. The assessment scores you based on your ability to work in heavy, medium, light, sedentary, or less-than-sedentary jobs, in which environments, and for how long. It also looks at the jobs you held in the past and the jobs you qualify to hold, and whether or not you can do these jobs based on your current condition.
In most cases, a doctor completes the RFC assessment. This may be your primary care physician or a doctor from Disability Determination Services. In some cases, the SSA may ask you to attend a consultative medical exam with a doctor. The SSA will cover the cost for this exam, and the doctor will complete the assessment.
What Does the SSA Look for During the RFC Assessment?
When a doctor completes an RFC assessment, they are looking to document your ability or inability to complete a number of specific tasks often related to working. If you can do a large number of these tasks, you can likely hold a job that requires little previous training. This means you can earn at least the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit and you will not qualify for disability benefits.
Some of the questions the doctor may ask during your assessment include:
- Are you blind?
- Can you hear and speak well enough to interact with others?
- Does your condition, pain, or medication prevent you from focusing?
- Can you understand, remember, and complete tasks assigned to you?
- How do you cope with changes to your environment?
- How long can you sit, stand, and walk?
- How much can you push, pull, and lift?
- Can you kneel or bend down?
- Can you use your hands for typing or other tasks?
- Does your mental or emotional impairment make it difficult to get along with others?
To qualify for benefits, this assessment must find you are unable to complete the tasks necessary to hold a job. If you can work any job you previously worked, any job you qualify to work, or any job that requires only unskilled tasks, you are unlikely to qualify for benefits based on your RFC.
It is important to remember, however, this assessment does not only take your symptoms into consideration. It also looks at how chronic pain affects your abilities, as well as the side effects of any medications you take. For example, pain medications can make it impossible to concentrate on assigned tasks and prevent you from focusing on the job at hand. This may make it difficult to work.
How Can I Learn More About the RFC Assessment?
If you have questions about how you may fare during an RFC assessment, or need help preparing for this step in the disability evaluation process, Berger and Green can help. Our disability attorneys understand what doctors look for during this assessment. We can help ensure you present your case in the most compelling way possible. Call our office today at 412-661-1400 to learn more.