When applying for disability benefits, your functional limitations are the most important factor in considering your application. Your disability examiner (DE) will look at your medical condition as the topmost evidence required to evaluate your disability application's process.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will primarily look for symptoms of how your condition affects your daily functioning. In addition to noticing and evaluating your symptoms, the disability examiners at the Disability Determination Services (DDS), along with the administrative law judges (ALJs) in the appeals processes, will look to evaluate detailed physician's notes on what activities a disability claimant is and is not capable of. It is very important that your medical doctor or physician provides specific details as to what the patient is not capable of doing (functional limitations). If your doctor fails to provide detailed information, your disability examiner will naturally assume that your condition is not severe enough. This can lead the SSA to a conclusion that you can continue your past work or some other work under substantial gainful activity (SGA) and decline your SSDI application.
What are functional limitations?
Your functional limitations are the list of symptoms appearing with your impairment or disability, considered severe enough to prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA).
The SSA will look at your functional limitations to access your application on the basis of how severe its impact is on your daily functioning levels. Some of the questions you may be accessed on by your disability examiner include:
- - Ability to sit/stand for a long period of time
Your disability examiner may evaluate whether you are able to sit or stand for long periods of time. This limitation is important since most jobs require a person to sit or stand for longer periods of time in many occupations. The disability examiner appointed in your case will consider if you need to take breaks or change positions between sitting or standing while you work.
- - Ability to bend or pick up heavy weights
Applicants who suffer from spinal problems may have moderate or extreme difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time, especially picking up heavy weights such as construction workers, work in farms etc. In addition, applicants suffering from back, neck or spinal injuries may suffer difficulty in performing manual labor jobs that require several types of movements. This includes:
Bending This involves reclining your body in a downward position while the rest remains vertical
Crouching This involves inclining in a position where your knees are bent and your upper body is brought forward and down
Stooping This involves bending your head or body forward or downward
- - Any visionary or hearing loss
Having a visionary or hearing impairment may have a lasting impact on your ability to perform certain jobs or handle specific kind of equipment – such as heavy instruments and machinery. Your disability examiner may evaluate you for hearing or visionary impairment or access whether it prevents you from working in various types of occupations.
- - Ability to reach for objects
Many jobs require that you are able to reach for overhead objects or leap forward to grab objects. If you suffer from a degenerative type of disability, it may affect your ability to perform certain types of tasks. These types of conditions may include arthritis or degenerative disk disorder (DDD).
- - Ability to grasp objects
Various sedentary jobs require efficient, dexterous movements such as computer-related work, office or driving related jobs. Your disability examiner (DE) will access your ability based on your ability to carry out tasks that your previous job required and if you can be accustomed using some enhancement tools to continue that job.
- - Mental impairments
Various jobs require you to be mentally very efficient and responsive to work on job. The DE will evaluate whether you suffer from a mental or psychiatric condition and how it may affect your ability to work. This may include various mental impairments such as depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD or other mental conditions. The DE will assess how your condition will affect your ability to follow instructions, remember details or retain new information.
How are RFCs related to Disability Determinations
After the DDS medical consultant or claims examiner does your RFC assessment, a vocational expert (in case you're at an hearing) or a vocational analyst will be asked to determine what types of jobs you can do, if any (including your job), given your condition.
After evaluating whether or not you could perform certain types of tasks, go back to your previous work with little accommodation, the disability examiner (DE) or the administrative law judge (ALJ) will decide your case finally.
You can seek counsel of our disability attorneys for detailed analysis and help in filing your SSDI case.