One of the most important considerations in any Social Security Disability or SSI claim is the claimant’s residual functional capacity, or “RFC.” It is appropriate to consider the RFC as the claimant’s functional limitations or restrictions; or in other words, the maximum amount of work-like activities the person can do on a sustained basis.
So, for example, a person might be limited to standing and walking for a total of only two hours in an eight hour work day given their pain or related symptoms from a medical condition such as a painful back or leg injury. Or, the person may be limited in using their hands because of pain or related symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.
The RFC will take into account the person’s exertional and non-exertional limitations. Exertional limitations are those that affect a person’s ability to meet the strength demands of a job. These strength demands fall into the seven basic categories of sitting, standing, walking, pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying. Non-exertional limitations are those that affect a person’s ability to do the demands of a job other than strength demands. These may be things like difficulty concentrating on a task or following detailed instructions, difficulty seeing or hearing, or manipulative or postural limitations to name a few. A person may have a combination of both exertional and non-exertional limitations.
Typically, the most qualified person(s) to assess an individual’s RFC is the claimant’s treating physician(s) who has been treating them for a long time. This is because a treating doctor presumably knows the claimant’s medical conditions better than anyone else. Acceptable treating source opinions are typically given significant weight by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) if they are consistent with the other medical evidence as a whole. In some instances, such treating source opinions may be given controlling weight.
The main point of this post is to emphasize that treating source opinions from a disability claimants’ doctors regarding their functional limitations (RFC) are a very important element of any disability claim.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.