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Mental Residual Functional Capacity

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits your disability will be evaluated, on it severity and how it limits your activities. In order to assess how you are limited by your disability, Social Security asks you to complete a “RFC” or “residual functional capacity” form. Social Security will attempt to determine what you can do despite your disability based on your RFC. What you can do despite your disability is defined as your residual functional capacity. Therefore your RFC should show that you have very little or no residual functional capacity, so that you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

There are two main types of general RFCs (a physical RFC and a mental RFC) and a number of RFCs for specific conditions. In order to receive Social Security Disability benefits for a mental impairment, it is necessary that your physician complete a mental RFC.

Each section of the form asks your physician to rate your abilities from “not significantly impaired” to “markedly impaired.” The major sections of the form include

  • Understanding and memory
    • Sample question: Ability to remember locations and work-like procedures
  • Sustained concentration and persistence
    • Sample question: Ability to sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision
  • Social interaction
    • Sample question: Ability to act appropriately with the general public
  • Adaptation
    • Sample question: Ability to respond appropriately to changes in the work setting

Your physician will be asked to discuss factors that indicate you have a disorder found in the Social Security Blue Book listings, which will qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. There is a section for each mental impairment that includes a checklist of symptoms and a rating of the severity of the condition. Your physician will rate your limitations with based on difficulties in daily living, difficulties in maintaining relationships, difficulties in concentration and persistence, etc.

In order to improve your chances of qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important that your physician take particular care with this form, not only by checking the appropriate boxes, but also by adding personal diagnostic and treatment findings. A complete mental RFC will make it much less likely that your Claims Representative will ask you to attend a Consultative Examination.