Physical Residual Functional Capacity

In order to apply for Social Security Disability benefits due to a physical disability, it is necessary to submit a physical RFC form. RFC stands for “residual functional capacity” and basically means the activities you can perform despite your disability. Your physician will complete your RFC and will attempt to show that your disability is severe enough to prevent you from working. Only if you are found to have little or no residual functional capacity as a result of your disability will you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Therefore, it is important that your physician fill out the form carefully.

Although there are two main types of general RFCs (physical and mental) and a number of RFCs for specific conditions, if you suffer from a physical disability you will fill out a physical RFC when you apply to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

The physical RFC will ask your physician questions in the following areas:

  • Exertional capacity
    • Your ability to lift, carry, or pull certain weights, as well as the frequency with which you can perform these tasks
    • how long and/or how far you can sit, stand, and walk
    • whether or not you can push or pull with hands or feet well enough to operate controls
  • Postural limitations (your ability to do the following and how often)
    • climb
    • balance
    • stoop
    • kneel
    • crouch
    • crawl
  • Manipulative limitations
    • reaching
    • handling
    • fingering
    • feeling
  • Visual limitations
    • near acuity
    • far acuity
    • depth perception
    • accommodation
    • color vision
    • field of vision
  • Communicative limitations
    • hearing
    • speaking
  • Environmental limitations
    • extreme cold
    • extreme heat
    • wetness
    • humidity
    • noise
    • vibration
    • fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation
    • hazards, such as machinery or heights
  • There is also a section for symptoms (types, severity, duration), treatments (including outcomes of various treatments, e.g., how you have responded or failed to respond), and additional comments.

    The additional comments section can be extremely useful in gaining approval for Social Security Disability benefits, especially if your physician will take the time to describe the course of your disability and its effects, as witnessed over time.

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