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What Does Residual Functional Capacity Mean?

A disabled man speaks to a doctor in Akron, Ohio.

The process of applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is challenging. The easiest way to obtain benefits is to show that your condition meets the criteria for an impairment listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book. However, not everyone that applies for disability benefits has a condition that matches or is equivalent to a listed impairment. In that situation, the person must go through an RFC assessment.

RFC stands for “residual functional capacity.” An RFC assessment will allow Ohio’s Division of Disability Determination (DDD) to determine the extent of your limitations and what you are still able to do in order to earn a living. DDD will then use this information to determine if you are eligible for benefits.

The RFC assessment is just one challenging part of the process when you try to obtain disability benefits. Having an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney from Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA, by your side throughout the application process can give you a much better chance of success with your case. We can bring more than 200 years of combined legal experience to your case and a record of obtaining SSD benefits for clients throughout northeastern Ohio. Contact us today to discuss your case in a free consultation.

What Is Residual Functional Capacity?

Your residual functional capacity indicates the limitations and capabilities you have. Your RFC assessment will tell DDD if you can still work, what type of jobs you can do and, ultimately, whether you need disability benefits. If your RFC indicates that you can still work – even if only at certain jobs – DDD will deny your claim.

How is RFC Determined?

When you undergo an RFC assessment, a medical examiner from DDD will perform a full evaluation to determine what type of work you can and cannot do. The DDD’s assessment is not a physical one. Instead, DDD will use your medical records and notes from your doctor when assessing your health. You are also allowed to have your own doctors develop your RFC, although not all physicians will do this.

Once your RFC assessment is complete, it will state any limitations you have and any activities you can still perform despite your condition. For example, your RFC may state you cannot operate heavy machinery, but you can still sit for four or more hours.

What Are Levels of Activity or Exertional Capacity?

Your RFC assessment will state whether you can perform work at a certain exertion level. The different exertion levels that may show on your RFC assessment include:

  • Sedentary work – This exertion level mainly means sitting, although you must be able to stand and walk occasionally. Sedentary work also includes occasionally carrying small items such as tools, but you cannot lift or carry more than 10 pounds at a time.
  • Light work – If you are at this exertion level, you can carry 10 pounds at a time and, occasionally, lift up to 20 pounds. Frequent walking and standing are requirements of light work as well as the ability to push and pull with your arms and legs.
  • Medium work – If you can lift or carry up to 50 pounds at once, and you can regularly carry up to 25 pounds, then you can do medium work.
  • Heavy work – At this exertion level, you can lift 100 pounds at once and regularly carry up to 50 pounds.
  • Very heavy work – If you are at this exertion level, you can lift items heavier than 100 pounds and regularly carry items that are at least 50 pounds.

If you can perform work at one exertion level, then you can also perform the type of work indicated in the exertion levels below it. For example, if your RFC assessment states that you can perform very heavy work, then you can perform all types of work at all exertion levels. However, you could have non-exertional restrictions such as an inability to use your fingers or remember details. If you have limitations that involve a psychiatric or neurological disorder, DDD will likely also develop a mental RFC assessment.

What Is the Role of Your RFC Assessment in Your SSD Benefits Claim?

A DDD examiner will use your RFC assessment to determine if you can still perform the duties you were assigned at your last job. The examiner will also consider all types of employment you have held in the last 15 years. The goal is to determine the type of work you know how to perform. For instance, if you had an office job, and your RFC assessment puts you at a sedentary exertion level, the examiner will likely determine that you can return to your old job.

If a DDD examiner determines that you can return to work, you must be able to work full-time. You must also be useful and helpful while at work – even with a few absent days. If you need frequent rests or breaks, your RFC assessment will likely show that you cannot return to the same type of work you once did.

On the other hand, if the DDD examiner determines that you cannot return to the same type of work, the examiner will assess whether you can handle any other line of work. When making this decision, the examiner will use the SSA’s medical-vocational rules grid. The factors that determine if you can work at another job include your age, education and work skills.

Contact an Ohio Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyer for Help with Your Claim

If you suffer from a disabling medical condition and can no longer work, you likely have bills and everyday expenses piling up. Social Security Disability benefits can ease the financial burdens that your disability causes. However, these benefits are not easy to obtain.  To get the help you need, contact Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA today. We have extensive experience with the complex SSD benefits claims process. We can help you to file your claim or appeal the denial of your claim and fight for the benefits you deserve.