1. What Does the RFC in Disability and RFC Stand For?
The RFC in Disability and RFC stands for Residual Functional Capacity. It is a buzz word often heard when discussing Social Security disability. The RFC is, at its simplest level, is the capacity that remains of a person’s ability to work full-time after taking into account a claimant’s physical and/or mental limitations.
The RFC Form is a form used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to rate the functional capacity of an applicant for SSDI and SSI benefits. An RFC form is filled out and signed by a disability examiner, a doctor that works for Disability Determination services, the administrative law judge hearing your case or a treating physician. It is done based solely on a review of the available medical records. It does not require an examination. The RFC documents the physical or mental abilities of a claimant to do the tasks required by different types of work.
Similar to an RFC, is an FCE which stands for Functional Capacity Evaluation. According to Wikipedia, a functional capacity evaluation is a is set of tests, practices and observations that are combined to determine the ability of the evaluated (person) to function in a variety of circumstances, most often employment, in an objective manner.” FCEs are signed by the healthcare professional that actually performed the physical tests. Typically, FCEs are more expensive, more thorough, and take longer, than RFCs. They require an actual physical examination.
2. How Important Is an RFC – The Key to Proving Disability?
An RFC, by a treating physician, is perhaps the single most important piece of evidence in a claim for Social Security Disability benefits. It is the “gold standard” of evidence in is a Social Security Disability Case. The RFC form should be supported by evidence in the medical file, fully and legibly filled out by the doctor, and signed by the doctor. RFC Forms that are incomplete, filled out in the handwriting of an office assistant, and/or illegibly signed by the doctor are more likely to not be fully considered by the Disability Law Judge. If the health care provider does not provide this information in a clear manner, a judge can call an independent doctor to come to the hearing and decide the limitations based solely on a review of the paper medical records. This is far inferior to having the opinion of a treating physician.
3. What Does an RFC Form look Like?
The RFC Form is paper form states what limits the person has in lifting, walking, standing and sitting. Other useful information includes whether the person can lift a weight repetitively, and whether the person must rest after certain activities. Many times RFC Forms are specific to the condition that the claimant suffers. For example, an RFC Form based on the exertional limitations of a back injury is likely to be different than one for a heart condition. Disabilities based on the nonexertional limitations of mental illness also use a different form than those based on physical limitations. Such an impairment eliminates strict consideration of a case under the physical RFC standards, but other questions arise. Can the claimant follow directions, get along with coworkers, follow supervision, concentrate, attend to detail, follow a normal pace of work? Is there sustained capacity to work on a predictable basis? Sometimes literacy or ability to communicate in English can be factors. Many cases are a combination of exertional and non-exertional limitations.
4. Don’t the Medical Records Speak For Themselves?
Sometimes doctors believe the medical records “speak for themselves.” This is a fatal error in preparing a disability claim. Limitations must be clearly spelled out by the treating doctor in the “magic” words that fit into the disability regulations. Doctors that think this way are doing a disservice to their patients. Many medical records are incomplete and illegible. Because findings of disability are based on both medical and vocational factors, very few medical records actually address the specific requirements of Social Security Disability. Short letters from you doctor that state: “Claimant is disabled” without cites to evidence in the medical record are of little value.
5. Can I Win If My Doctor Will Not Fill Out an RFC?
If you have a serious medical and/or psychological conditions that are fully documented in your medical records you can still win your Social Security Case. But, it is much more difficult, and you are much more likely to lose, than if you had an RFC completed by your treating doctor. The first step in getting your doctor to fill out an RFC is: ASK! After asking, if the doctor fails to fill the form out: ASK AGAIN! AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. Let them know how important their opinion on an RFC form is to your disability claim. Flattery will get you everywhere. Also, let the support staff and the nurses know that that you have asked for the doctor to fill out the RFC Form. Ask them to help make sure the very busy doctor gets it done. But, don’t just ask the support staff. Many of them are trained to say no to disability forms. You must discuss it with your doctor. You may even want to take the extra step of scheduling a specific appointment to for your doctor to fill out the form while you are there. Even if the office has a “no disability paperwork” policy, keep trying. It is that important.
When you have questions about the disability and RFC, get in touch with SocialSecurityCase.com at 855-GO-DISABILITY (855-463-4722). We can help.