Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits Is Challenging. Our Los Angeles Disability Lawyers Can Help.
Your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits is not solely based on your disability, but how severely it affects your day-to-day life. Despite your condition, if you are able to perform a job and earn a living, you will likely not be able to obtain benefits.
When determining your ability to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate what’s known as your “residual functional capacity” (RFC). Your RFC shows what activities you are capable of performing on a regular basis or a full-time, 40-hour work week.
Although your RFC is not officially determined until later on, it can be helpful to describe your disability in terms of your residual functional capacity during the application process. Applying for disability benefits can be difficult and time-consuming to say the least. The Los Angeles disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour are familiar with the ins-and-outs of the Social Security system and can help you navigate the claims process.
How Is Your RFC Determined?
The disability claims examiner handling your application will work with a specialist at the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office to conduct an RFC assessment. In other words, the specialist will determine your ability to work after examining the nature of your physical or mental disability.
Your medical records and doctor’s notes play a big role in deciding your RFC. The DDS specialist will look at these items to understand how your disability limits you and what work activities you are capable of doing. The DDS specialist will then fill out an RFC form that will support either the approval or denial of your claim.
Physical RFCs: Exertional and Non-Exertional Limitations
In assessing residual functional capacity, the SSA will use ratings ranging from ‘sedentary’ to ‘very heavy’ to classify physical capabilities on your RFC form.
This means that for physical disabilities, your RFC will demonstrate the exertional level of work you’re capable of performing: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy. Your physical RFC is based on how much and how often you can walk, stand, lift, carry, push, or pull objects.
Your RFC will also include any non-exertional limitations due to your disability. These include actions that don’t involve strength, such as the inability to use your fingers. If you can’t do any of the following, it may appear on your RFC as a non-exertional limitation:
- Stoop or crouch
- See, hear, or speak
- Use your hands and fingers to write, type, or manipulate objects
- Be exposed to certain temperatures, sunlight, fumes, or dust
If your RFC demonstrates that your disability limits you from lifting heavy objects or standing for over an hour but you can sit and type at a computer, the SSA will likely determine that you have the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work.
If you are capable of very heavy work, the SSA considers you to be capable of all other levels, as well. Keep in mind that to receive Social Security benefits, it must be determined that you are unable to perform the duties of your past job and any other type of work, considering your age, education, and job experience.
Similar to physical RFCs, if you apply for Social Security benefits due to a mental or emotional disability, the SSA will need to understand the severity of your condition and how it affects your ability to work.
A mental RFC evaluates your ability to perform important work activities such as understanding and remembering instructions, managing normal levels of stress, and interacting with co-workers.
The SSA will use this information to determine if you have the residual functional capacity to perform your most recent job. If not, they will then compare your mental limitations with other jobs you are qualified for to see if you are capable of holding a less mentally challenging position.
If your mental disability prevents you from doing even the most simple, unskilled work, you may then be eligible for disability benefits.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Most disability applicants aren’t aware of how complicated it can be to file a disability claim with the Social Security Administration. The paperwork and forms required to receive benefits can be overwhelming, especially when you are struggling with a disabling physical or mental condition.
Hiring an experienced disability attorney who is familiar with everything you need to file a successful claim can make the process much less stressful. While you are not responsible for filling out the RFC form, you want to ensure that it accurately reflects the nature of your disability and any work limitations.
Instead of waiting for the DDS examiner to fill out your RFC, you can have your doctor fill out a form listing your exact physical and mental limitations and how they affect your ability to work. An attorney can send this form to your doctor on your behalf and help gather all the details you will need for your claim.
Need Help Applying for Benefits? Schedule a Free Consultation Today
The Los Angeles disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour exclusively represent disabled individuals and their families applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. If you need help understanding the RFC form or any part of the application or appeals process, please contact our firm today.