What is residual functional capacity and why is it important?

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2022 | Social Security Disability, SSD Benefits

Daily living can be difficult for people in San Diego and across Southern California who are suffering from an injury, illness or condition that leaves them unable to work and do the things they used to do. Not only will it hinder them personally, but it can have a dramatic financial impact on them. Making ends meet can be difficult and there is endless fear as to what the future holds. Fortunately, if you are in this position, Social Security Disability benefits are available.

Still, even with the programs that can help people get through their struggles, the process can be confusing. Some of the terms may be hard to understand. When you are seeking SSD benefits, one of the key factors to know is the residual functional capacity. Since this is such a fundamental aspect of a claim for SSD benefits, it is wise to know what it means, how it is assessed and what steps can be taken to have a good chance at being approved.

What is residual functional capacity?

The residual functional capacity is what you can do with the limitations you are facing. Obviously, the level of exertion you can muster and the tasks you can complete at work will be vital to the job. For example, if you cannot stand, sit, lift items or walk very far, it is problematic. If you feel tired immediately or suffer pain when doing moderate tasks, it will impact the types of jobs you can do.

When the Social Security Administration and its Disability Determination Services assess a claimant for the residual functional capacity, it will use the medical evidence from care and treatment that has been provided. It will also look at other forms of evidence. The entire medical history must be viewed. That could include having a consultative examination to get a full picture of what you are confronted with. It goes beyond medical professionals and extends to employers, family, friends, neighbors and others.

With residual functional capacity, the SSA will want to know what you are and are not physically capable of. Those who cannot complete the rudimentary tasks mentioned above are unlikely to be able to do most forms of work.

Mental abilities are also considered. If a person suffered a head injury in an accident or has an illness that damages their ability to remember, understand, complete instructions and behave in an appropriate manner in a work situation, this can also be essential during the assessment and with being approved for benefits.

When the SSA evaluates your claim, it will use the five-step sequential evaluation process. At steps four and five, the residual functional capacity is considered. If, based on the residual functional capacity, you can do some type of work based on your past work experience and current medical issues, you will be found as not disabled. If you get to the fifth step, the residual functional capacity is viewed in the context of past work experience, education and age to determine if you can do other types of work. If you cannot, you will be classified as disabled.

Residual functional capacity is just one part of the process and help can be critical

If you are intimidated by the process of applying for SSD benefits, it is important to remember that many claims are denied and later approved on appeal. The residual functional capacity hinges on various factors and it is not necessarily the end of the case if there is a minor obstacle in getting approved for benefits. For help from the start, to organize the claim and to know what is necessary when applying or appealing, it is important for you to have experienced and caring help with the Social Security Disability process.