Residual Functional Capacity: Legal Definition

Your residual functional capacity is a measurement of the work you can still do despite a disability. This considers any related physical or mental limitations. For example, suppose you work a job that involves heavy lifting. You hurt your back at work. When you return to your job, rather than hoisting 100-pound beams with ease as you did before, the most you can lift overhead is 40 pounds. That is your residual functional capacity.

Your residual functional capacity matters during the approval process for Social Security disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) may subject you to a residual functional capacity test, or an RFC test for short. This test attempts to quantify your residual functional capacity, allowing the SSA to determine what work you can and cannot do.

If you have questions about your Social Security Benefits, contact the attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group at 865-566-0800 for a free consultation.

Physical vs. Mental Residual Functional Capacity

Residual functional capacity can refer either to your physical or mental abilities. Depending on whether your condition is physical or mental, the SSA uses different evaluation methods. It can elect to administer a physical RFC or a mental RFC.

Physical RFC

A physical RFC test measures the physical tasks you can perform despite your disability. The SSA uses information found in your medical records or provided by your doctor to populate the test. If the information is not available, the SSA can require you to undergo a physical exam by a doctor it appoints.

When the SSA calculates your physical RFC, it seeks a few pieces of information. This includes:

  • how much weight you can repeatedly lift,
  • how much you can occasionally lift, and
  • how long you can stay on your feet or sit at a desk in a typical workday.

It also checks for limitations on other physical movements, such as bending, kneeling, crouching, and stooping.

Mental RFC

If you apply for disability for a mental disorder, the SSA might put you through a mental RFC. This test measures your performance in a number of mental and emotional categories that can affect your ability to work. These include:

  • forging social connections,
  • taking criticism,
  • working as part of a team, and
  • handling changes in your environment.

Why Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Important

Your residual functional capacity determines the jobs you can and cannot do with your disability. The SSA takes the results of your RFC test and compares them to the requirements of every position you have held in the last 15 years. It also compares the results to every open position you may have applied for based on your education and skills.

If the SSA believes you have the functional capacity to perform any of the jobs it identifies, it may decline your disability claim.

Schedule a Free Social Security Disability Attorney Case Evaluation by Calling 865-566-0800

The attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group, want to help you receive Social Security disability. We offer a free consultation and case evaluation. Call 865-566-0800 to speak with a member of our team today.

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