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Residual Functional Capacity and Your Social Security Disability Claim

What is Residual Functional Capacity and why does it matter so much?

When you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you may frequently see the abbreviation, RFC. RFC stands for Residual Functional Capacity. Your RFC is a list or summary of your ability to do basic tasks. This applies to both your physical ability and your mental ability.

When you file a claim for disability benefits, a medical evaluator will review your medical records and complete a RFC form, which is used in part to approve or deny your claim. This is a medical professional who has never treated or evaluated you. Therefore, it may be very helpful to have your own treating doctor complete a RFC form for you as well. Your primary care doctor can complete a physical and/or mental RFC form. If your claim was filed on or after March 27, 2017, a physician’s assistant, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner can also complete the form. If you receive mental health treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist, you should ask that physician to complete a mental RFC for you.

If you have any attorney, your attorney likely has her/his own forms that they use regularly and can send to your doctor. Sometimes, it’s best to take the form in with you to your appointment rather than have the attorney fax it over to the office. You should discuss the best method with your attorney representative.

Social Security also has physical and mental forms that it uses for it’s own examiners. You can use these forms to take to your own doctor to complete. For example, in my practice, I prefer to use Social Security Form SSA-4734-F4-SUP to send to psychologists and psychiatrists when I need a mental RFC completed for a client’s case.

If you have a condition such as migraines that isn’t well addressed by a general RFC form, your attorney can likely find or create one that is more appropriate. The same is true for people with rare medical conditions that may be poorly understood by the medical evaluators.

Having your treating doctor complete an accurate assessment of your physical and/or mental residual functional capacity can make a significant difference in whether you win your case. However, sometimes physicians are reluctant to complete these forms. In fact, there are entire medical facilities that have a general practice of not completing RFC forms, such as Kaiser Permanente. If this is the case, you may wish to ask your doctor if they would be willing to write a statement about your condition and how it affects your ability to do daily activities (i.e. sitting, standing, walking, lifting, household chores, driving, ect.).


Below are links to Physical and Mental Residual Functional Capacity forms you can take to your doctor.


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