One of the things an Administrative Law Judge specifically looks for when determining if a claimant’s medical evidence rises to the level of disability is something called a Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation (RFC). These typically come in the form of questionnaires that a claimant’s doctor fills out in an effort to explain their physical or mental limitations if that person was placed in a competitive work environment.
Interestingly enough, at the hearing level, the Social Security Administration will automatically include a physical or mental functional evaluation in a claimant’s file. This evaluation is almost always completed by a person who is not a doctor and usually says that the claimant is not disabled. Keep in mind that this person making conclusions on the claimant’s condition has never seen the claimant and is solely making determinations based on what they see in the file.
This is precisely why it is crucial to obtain your own RFC from your treating doctor. The opinion of a claimant’s treating source has much more validity and should be given a lot more weight in the Judge’s decision.
An RFC usually addresses the claimant’s symptoms, diagnoses, objective findings, physical limitations, psychological limitations, orthopedic test results, ability to perform in the workplace and specific medical opinions regarding the claimant’s medical condition. The Social Security Administration does have functional evalution forms that they sometimes send to treating sources, but attorneys often have specific questionnaires that focus on a particular impairment.
If you have a good relationship with your treating doctor, you will probably have no problem getting an RFC from them. It’s important to remember that not all RFC’s will be supportive to your case. This is where the importance of an attorney comes into play. An attorney can recognize whether a specific RFC will help or hurt the case.
A supportive RFC can be the difference between winning and losing your disability case. Including one as evidence in your claim for disability benefits is just another way to increase your chances for winning.