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What is Physical Residual Functional Capacity?

A Social Security disability benefits application can be very confusing, especially in light of the numerous statutorily-significant terms, phrases and words accompanying each step of the process. For these reasons, it is strongly advised that all applicants retain an Atlanta disability lawyer at the outset of applying for benefits to help explain what the Social Security Administration (SSA) deems important.

One of the most vital and recurring phrases used throughout a benefits application is the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) determination. A determination of a decreased RFC is critical before obtaining benefits and the SSA will review a number of factors of each applicant to decide whether he or she is actually disabled to the point that gainful employment is impossible.

First, the SSA will inquire whether the applicant has problems with sitting, how long he or she can sit in one stretch, and how long sitting is possible in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. Applicants should be prepared to discuss whether they experience discomfort sitting and whether they squirm or lean on elbows while sitting. In addition, the SSA will inquire into the applicant’s ability to sit in various locations including a desk, office chair, bench, or stool. Applicants must also reveal whether they can sit with arms extended, with hands available to manipulate objects, or with their neck slightly bent forward.

Benefits applicants who experience pain while sitting may be asked to describe whether pain is alleviated by getting out of the chair and how long an applicant can sit in a chair before the pain is unbearable. If physical pain places limitations on the applicant’s pain tolerance, he or she should describe how the pain changes, the level of discomfort, radiation and intensity of the pain, and how the pain is controlled.

Some disabled applicants must elevate one or both legs in order to stay seated. If this is the case, the SSA will inquire which leg must be elevated, for how long and how high. If legs become so uncomfortable during sitting, the SSA may ask how long the applicant can stand, walk or lie down before sitting again. It is also important to determine whether the applicant needs assistance getting up and if he or she experiences dizziness, stiffness, or pain upon rising from a chair.

Lastly, with regard to sitting limitations, the SSA may ask what symptoms the applicant experiences in trying to sit too long. The applicant may give answers using illustrations such as “I can sit long enough to pay the bills” or “long enough to watch a movie.”

An Atlanta disability lawyer can help clients facing these and many other inquiries during the disability benefits process. Please contact us today.