You are here

What is an RFC and Why Should I Obtain One from My Doctor?

The process of applying for Social Security Disability is complex. The most straightforward way to win an award for your disabling illness is to meet the listing criteria of a particular condition in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book. However, many individuals do not meet a Blue Book listing, despite being severely disabled.

These individuals will need to demonstrate to the SSA the effects that their illness or injury has on their ability to work. A residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment will detail the various limitations that you might have as a result of your condition. In other words, the RFC will demonstrate how much you can do and for how long you are able to do it, given your current health status.

For example, if you are suffering from chronic back pain, your doctor may have told you that you should not lift more than 10 pounds and that you should not bend, push, or pull. You may also have been prescribed medications for your pain that make you tired and unsafe to operate machinery.

If you work as a mechanic, your functional limitations might make it such that you are unable to perform your job duties. Also, your non-exertional activities such as your ability to follow directions or keep pace may be impacted by your narcotic needs. An RFC would outline these limitations, making it clear to the SSA your remaining capacity to work since your injury.

What is an RFC and Why Should I Obtain One from My Doctor?

Will the Social Security Administration Complete an RFC for Me?

Your Social Security Disability claims examiner will work with a disability consultant at the Disability Determination Service (DDS) to perform your RFC. The residual functional capacity assessment is not a physical exam, and you will not need to actively participate. Instead, the medical consultant will utilize your medical records, including any physician notes, to determine what functional abilities remain and what physical and mental restrictions are present.

Once your RFC is complete, it will be used to determine what type of work that you can still perform, ranging from sedentary work to very heavy work. Only those individuals who have been given a rating of medium work or less will be considered for disability awards.

Can My Doctor Help Complete My RFC Assessment?

It’s highly likely that your treating physician knows your capabilities and limitations. If he or she has done a good job of documenting your physical and mental limitations in your medical record, they will carry a significant amount of weight in your RFC.

However, what the SSA does not tell applicants is that you can request that your doctor complete the RFC for you. While some physicians may be unwilling to do so, many others have assisted their patients with this task. Having your own physician complete an RFC on your behalf will enhance your chances of being granted a disability award.

Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me Obtain an RFC?

You will receive an RFC evaluation from the SSA, regardless of whether or not you hire a disability attorney. Depending on your relationship with your physician, you may be able to obtain an RFC independently. However, if you are seeking an RFC and having difficulty, an experienced disability attorney may be able to assist you.

Social Security lawyers are skilled at communicating with physicians and can sometimes help in facilitating the completion of an RFC from your doctor. If you have questions about the RFC assessment, it may be wise to see professional advice.

Additional Resources