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Tampa Workers' Compensation Attorney / Blog / Social Security Disability / What is the RFC Test for Disability?

What is the RFC Test for Disability?


Basically, Residual Functional Capacity determines if a Social Security Disability applicant can work at any job (steps four and five of a disability determination) and is thus ineligible for benefits. Disability is a relative term. Dentists must have 100 percent capacity in each hand. Truck drivers can get by with less. Likewise, RFC is a relative term, especially if the applicant has good days and bad days.

Because these concepts are so nebulous and relative, a Tampa disability lawyer is an important partner in this process. Attorneys usually can’t dispute initial RFC determinations, because they usually aren’t involved in that part of the claims process. But at an ALJ hearing, attorneys can introduce evidence and challenge evidence. This ability allows them to alter the RFC determination, so it doesn’t affect your disability benefits claim.

What is the Functional Residual Capacity for Disability?

Usually, DDS (Disability Determination Services) officers only consider the medical evidence in the official medical evaluation. They consider functional capacity in three different areas: 

  • Physical: Most applicants have physical disabilities. These disabilities limit employment-related physical capacities that most people take for granted, like sitting or remaining in the same position while working without experiencing severe pain or discomfort. However, even people with severe physical disabilities usually have some functionality in these areas.
  • Mental: PTSD and cognitive disabilities usually affect a person’s ability to focus. Specific work-related functions include the ability to follow directions, execute instructions, maintain a steady work pace, and speak or respond appropriately to coworkers, managers, and customers.
  • Other: This catch-all category considers the indirect effects of a disability. For example, people with certain skin or breathing conditions cannot effectively work in some environments, like outdoors or with smokers. Other effects are even more indirect. Seizures are a good example. Frequently, the fear and embarrassment associated with this disability is much worse than the physical aspects of this condition.

RFC determines the individual’s maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis. A “regular and continuing basis” means eight hours a day, five days a week.

At an appeal hearing, a Tampa disability lawyer often challenges the initial RFC determination on this basis. Many people have good days and bad days. Furthermore, many disabled people run out of gas late in the day or late in the week.

RFC Exertional Levels

Based on all this evidence, much of which a DDS officer doesn’t consider, the SSA designates an RFC category. These categories are:

  • Sedentary: The applicant cannot stand or walk more than two hours a day, and cannot consistently lift more than five pounds. Sedentary individuals also cannot concentrate or play well with others for more than two hours a day.
  • Light/Medium: Unlike sedentary work, light or medium work might qualify as substantial gainful activity, depending on the hourly pay. These individuals can function fairly well, mentally and physically, for six hours a day. Medium individuals have somewhat sharper minds and stronger bodies.
  • Heavy/Very Heavy: This category focuses almost exclusively on the applicant’s physical abilities. Heavy work is the ability to consistently lift fifty pounds; very heavy work is the ability to consistently lift one hundred pounds. These individuals almost never receive benefits, because they can usually work in warehouses or other such SGA environments.

Special rules apply to applicants with certain disabilities, and to applicants over age 50. The SSA uses a different scoring system in these cases.

 Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Lawyer 

Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.



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