When filing for Social Security Disability you must prove that you are not capable of working in any capacity. The best way to accomplish that is by submitting a Residual Functional Capacity Report completed by your doctor.
Of course, if you read my previous posts you already know that medical records are key to winning your claim. You can check my posts (if you haven’t read them) about the Importance of medical records, How to fix your records if they are not showing your impairments and cost-effective ways to obtain your records to make sure you have a complete claim file.
The Residual Functional Capacity Report is the “icing on the cake” for your claim. It’s what ties everything together!
But what is the Residual Functional Capacity Report and why does it matter so much?
A Residual Functional Capacity Report (or RFC) is a form that will give the “decision-maker” a clear view of how disabled you are. This form will explain in detail and by numbers “how little” you can do in your day-to-day activities.
Whether you have a physical or mental impairment, the RFC form will tell the judge how much you can lift, stand, walk, etc. Or, it will say how long you can pay attention or concentrate based on your particular illness and severity.
The reason you want to add an RFC form to your claim file is that your medical records, as good as they are, will never get into as much detail as the form.
Say you have a spinal condition that prevents you from working.
Your doctor’s notes say you have limitations on flexion and extension, pain on palpation and some neurological deficits (numbness or pins and needles).
If you present this evidence only, it may not be clear to the decision maker how limited you are in your activities.
The medical record just says you have limitations but it fails to quantify your limitations.
People work with back pain all the time.
What the judge needs to know is why YOU can’t work with YOUR back pain. Or any other impairment that prevents you from working.
What makes the pain so bad that you can’t work anymore?
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That’s where the RFC comes in.
Like I said earlier, the RFC report will explain by numbers how bad things are.
Same back pain and limitations as seen in the above example but now you have the RFC form. Now your form says that you can only lift no more than 3lbs, you can only sit for 15 minutes before you need to stand up or lie down. The form will also tell the judge how long you will be able to work before taking a break or how long that break needs to be.
If it says you need to lie down for 1 hour after sitting for 15 minutes, that’s a pretty serious limitation.
The goal is to show the “decision maker” that no employer would hire you based on those limitations.
What if I have a mental illness?
If you have a mental illness, the form will actually explain how long you can focus before you have to stop working. It will indicate how you react to things and situations around you, and if you have any ability to cope or interact with coworkers.
The form will also go over an extensive list of symptoms that if met, will clearly show your mental impairments: even if it’s “all in your head” (like some doctors will indicate).
How do I get an RFC form?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
There are a few ways to get a hold of the right form for your particular medical impairment(s).
–One way, of course, is to ask your attorney (if you have one). He/she will be able to provide you with their own forms (they vary by publisher and by impairment), and you can take your form(s) to your doctor(s) so they can complete it/them for you.
Oh, and you CAN submit more than one form and for different impairments too. The more the better, as long as there are no inconsistencies.
–Another way to obtain a form is by using the SSA website. The drawback with their forms is that they are very generic and leave a lot out of the picture.
Of course, why would they make things easy for you?
–Finally, I happen to have a Tutorial that not only includes detailed physical and mental impairment forms, but also tips and tricks on how to convince your doctor to complete your forms (only $9.99).
You can click on the image below and it will take you directly to the check out page.
How will the judge use my Residual Functional Report to decide my case?
Once you submit the form(s) to the Social Security office or judge, they will compare your medical records and the RFC forms. Then they will decide whether your limitations listed on the form(s) are supported by your medical records.
They have to go together. A completed form without medical records will mean nothing to the decision maker.
You also have to make sure that the medical records are “consistent” with what you see on the forms.
Further, trying to get an RFC form completed when it’s your first or second visit to a doctor will not carry any weight when presented to the judge.
Because the doctor doesn’t know you that well.
No matter how good he/she is and how specialized in your impairment, if you don’t have a long (enough) relationship with that doctor, the judge will ignore your form(s).
On the other hand, if you have seen your doctor over a year or more, then the picture changes and your evidence gains a whole lot of weight!
And that’s a good weight that can make a huge difference in winning your case!
-The Residual Functional Capacity Report gives the decision maker a quantification of your limitations
-The Residual Functional Capacity Report must be accompanied by medical records that are “consistent” with the information on the form(s)
-The Residual functional Capacity Report should be completed by a doctor (MD, DO, PsyD or Ph.D) who is familiar with your impairments
-The judge will compare your medical records and the form(s) to decide your case.
-There are several ways to get your RFC forms, through your attorney. Or, through the SSA website (a very generic form).
Or through Yours Truly here with my RFC Tutorial at a low cost of $9.99 (Tutorial and forms included).
I hope this article clarifies a few things about the importance of the Residual Functional Capacity Report.
If you have any questions regarding the RFC, feel free to ask me.
Until next time,