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Residual Functional Capacity

Your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits will be based not only on your disability but also on whether or not your disability prevents you from working. When determining your ability to work, Social Security will evaluate your residual functional capacity or what work activities you are able to do on a regular and continuing basis, that is, a full 40-hour work week, in spite of your disability.

If you are physically and mentally capable of performing a job, your Social Security disability claim will be denied. If you cannot perform the duties of your prior job or any past job, then Social Security will determine if you can do any work, taking into consideration your age, your education, and your work experience. Your Social Security disability claim be approved only if it is determined that you cannot perform any work.

It is advisable to describe your disability in terms of your residual functional capacity on your original application even though residual functional capacity is often not determined until the level of the appeals hearing.

Physical work activities include sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, reaching, and bending over. Mental work activities include the ability to read, remember procedures, and follow directions. If you cannot walk because of your disabling condition, you would still be qualified for sedentary tasks. If you cannot read, but you can remember and follow instructions, you would be able to do any job that didn’t require reading. Social Security Disability examiners will only approve your claim if you are unable to do any sort of work.

Social Security disability examiners will consider all your impairments, from serious to minor, in assessing your residual functional capacity. Assessments ratings range from sedentary to very heavy for your physical abilities and less than unskilled to skilled for your mental abilities. A rating of very heavy for physical abilities means you suffer no physical disability; likewise a rating of less than unskilled means you have insufficient mental capacity for any job.

If you retain the residual functional capacity to perform the requirements of any common work in the national economy, you will not be found disabled. For instance, if Social Security disability examiners find that you are able to perform light, semi-skilled work, they will compare your residual functional capacity with those found in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and will match you with any jobs listed in that publication which call for light, semi-skilled work.