March 11, 2016

Your Residual Functional Capacity and Your Social Security Disability Claim

If you have a Social Security disability claim, you have probably heard or read about your “residual functional capacity” or, for short, your “RFC.”  In short, your RFC is an assessment of your physical and mental abilities to work.  Social Security evaluates your ability to perform specific functions that are required in all types of work, such as: Sitting Standing Walking Lifting, pushing, and pulling Climbing Kneeling, stooping, and crouching Reaching Handling Fingering Tolerating exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, noise, or workplace hazards Understanding and remembering work instructions Completing tasks Interacting with other people Maintaining good attendance at work and staying on task during work time Adjusting to changes in the workplace Why does the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluate your RFC?  To find you disabled, Social Security has to find that you are unable to work.  Jobs in the economy are classified based upon exertional level, skill level, and required education level.  They are further categorized according to the different physical and mental capabilities required to perform them.  Different types of limitations have differing levels of effect on your ability to work in a wide range of jobs.  For example, if you have difficulties using your hands and are found to only occasionally be able to handle or finger, you are likely prevented from doing most jobs because almost all jobs require you to use your hands fairly often.  Conversely, even if you are completely unable to climb ladders, kneel, or tolerate temperature extremes, Social Security will likely find a broad range of jobs that you would be able to perform in spite of those limitations. Probably the most prominent factor in an RFC is your exertional level – how much weight you can lift and how often, and how long you can stand and walk.  Jobs can be … Continued

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November 29, 2011

What Does Social Security Mean By My Physical Residual Functional Capacity?

If you left an Indianapolis Social Security Disability Appeals courtroom and heard the words “physical residual functional capacity” and didn’t understand what they were talking about, you may not be alone.  Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis can see why someone not familiar with the Social Security appeals process may not know why these terms are being used.  While the disability process may be confusing, at times it can also be predictable and some of the terms used at your hearing are usually used over and over at hearings to analyze disability claims. In cases where you are claiming a physical disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) usually tries to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC).  Your RFC in general terms is how much you can physically do despite the disabling condition you are experiencing.  Once it is determined what you RFC is the SSA will try to determine if you can return to your previous employment with the limitations you experience or if you cannot whether there are other occupations that exist in the economy that you can perform. Some of the things the Social Security Administration will look at when examining your RFC may include: How long you can sit, stand, and walk. How much you can lift and carry. Do you have postural limitations such as bending, squatting, or stooping? Do you have limitations on fine or gross manipulation with your hands? Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis may attempt to get a RFC assessment completed by his client’s treating physician if necessary.  A favorable RFC by a treating physician may or may not be given weight by an Administrative Law Judge.  Mr. Lewis has found some treating physicians will not complete these forms and leave their patients on their own when trying to receive … Continued

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July 28, 2009

Obtaining Disability Benefits with a Completed Residual Functual Capacity Assessment

A Social Security disability claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is the most that he/she may do despite their limitations.  The RFC Assessment is a form completed by a health care provider that states a claimant’s limitations caused by the impairment(s) that affect the claimant in a work setting.  This form can be very beneficial in obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  When a claimant submits their initial disability application, the claim is reviewed by a Social Security Administration’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) Examiner.  Before the examiner can make the final decision, the examiner must submit the claim to the Social Security Administration’s medical or psychological physicians to complete the RFC form.  The doctors will review the claimant’s medical records and rate the claimant’s RFC physical and mental RFC based on these records.  Often times, RFC forms completed by the SSA’s doctors are rarely of any benefit to claimant because typically they are used to support denials more often than approvals.  While the SSA may have one of their health care providers complete a RFC, it is important that individuals attempting to get disability benefits have their own medical professional complete a RFC.  Your own treating physician usually has more insight to the patient’s medical history, diagnosis, and limitations.  Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis finds a completed Residual Functional Capacity Assessment can be very helpful when appearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Appearing in front of an ALJ can allows time for the claimant to get a completed RFC assessment from a doctor that has personally treated the claimant. The treating physician has a relationship history with the claimant and has provided medical care for the claimant which allows the treating doctor to have the knowledge of a claimant’s medical condition.  As long as the treating physician’s opinions are consistent with the medical records and are documented properly, the SSA should consider the treating physician’s opinion in determining … Continued

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December 18, 2019

Torn Rotator Cuffs and Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Torn rotator cuffs and your Social Security disability benefits.  A torn rotator cuff can not only be painful, but can limit your ability to lift, push, pull, and reach.  Your capacity to work can be greatly diminished, especially when the arm affected is your dominant upper extremity.  It is hard to imagine there are many jobs where you would not be required to use your arms in some capacity to perform work tasks.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the limitations caused by a torn rotator cuff or other impairments that cause limitations to your upper extremities. If you have experienced a torn rotator cuff, you don’t need any reminders that there is usually pain involved.  Many of my clients complain of a dull aching pain when not using their arm, and a sharp, intense pain when in use.  Once you have tried more conservative treatments, such as medications, injections, and physical therapy, a qualified physician may recommend surgical procedures to alleviate the symptoms you experience.  These can include an open repair or arthroscopic repair.  Unfortunately, not all procedures are successful for all patients, and you may find that your symptoms still exist. I find many of my disability cases hinge on a client’s remaining Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  An RFC is the maximum ability to perform functions (such as standing, sitting, or lifting) that someone can do when all their limitations are considered.  If you cannot perform your past work due to these limitations, the SSA will try to determine whether you can perform other jobs in the economy that require less exertional effort.  If it is determined there are not a substantial number of jobs available that you can perform, you may be found disabled and be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.  Other factors such as your age, … Continued

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October 7, 2019

Your Heart Condition and Social Security Disability

Your heart condition and Social Security disability.  Just the thought of suffering a severe heart condition can be alarming and cause anxiety.  After all, a severe heart condition can cause many disabling symptoms or even death.  If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a heart condition, it is probably in their best interest to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. There are many heart conditions a person can endure, and these can include, but are not limited to: Congenital Heart Disease Angina Heart Failure Arrhythmia Valve Disease High Blood Pressure Many of these conditions have symptoms that are severe enough to prevent an individual from performing substantial gainful activity.  Examples of these symptoms are: Chest Pain Shortness of Breath Weakness and Fatigue Dizziness Swelling in Extremities Irregular Heartbeat The Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledges heart conditions in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 4.00 Cardiovascular System.  This publication by the SSA establishes guidelines to evaluate the severity of a heart condition to determine disability.  At times, these criteria can be difficult to meet or equal. If you do not meet these criteria, the SSA will look at how your symptoms cause you limitations in determining you Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  For example, a claimant who experiences shortness of breath with prolonged exertion may be limited in standing or walking during a typical workday.  There can be various ways to prove that your heart condition is severe enough for you to be found disabled. In order to be successful in a disability claim for heart conditions, objective cardiovascular testing or procedure notes are important to demonstrate to the SSA how severe your condition really is. Examples of helpful testing include: Blood Tests Tilt Tests Angiograms Chest X-rays Echocardiograms Electrocardiograms … Continued

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September 11, 2019

Amputation and Social Security Disability Benefits

Amputation and Social Security disability benefits.  If you have an amputation, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if your limitations prevent you from working.  Having a finger or toe amputated causes different limitations than having a foot, hand, leg, or arm amputated. Therefore, Social Security does not automatically find a person disabled if they have had any amputation, but some criteria must be met. Under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, amputations are evaluated at Listing 1.05.  To meet this listing, a claimant must have either amputation of: Both hands; or One or both lower extremities at or above the tarsal region, with stump complications resulting in medical inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate effectively, which has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months If your condition does not fall under either of these scenarios, then Social Security will evaluate your disability claim based on the limitations your conditions cause you in a work setting. Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) may be so diminished that you are unable to do your past work, or even any other work.  For instance, if you have had fingers on your dominant hand amputated, you may be unable to perform fine or gross manipulation that is necessary to perform the tasks required of most jobs in the economy.  In the case of a foot or toe amputation, you may find it difficult to stand for long enough to perform jobs that are not sedentary in nature.  There can be many reasons why an amputation can eliminate jobs in the national economy.  At your Social Security disability hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) may testify as to what, if any, jobs exist for a person with such a limited Residual Functional Capacity.  In my experience, the limited use … Continued

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June 26, 2019

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition?

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition? I represent claimants with a wide variety of physical and mental conditions.  I regularly talk to claimants with a rare or unique diagnosis that are concerned that their diagnosis will not be properly understood by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  These individuals want to make sure that they have a legal team that will advocate for them to the SSA regarding their unique struggles.  My law office understands that the disability appeal process can be complicated on its own, and even more so if you don’t feel that anyone understands what your medical conditions put you through.  I try to make sure my clients know that I have a plan for each claim, no matter how common or rare their medical conditions may be.   If you look at SSA’s website for information regarding medical conditions, you may come across their Listing of Impairments. SSA has special rules regarding how a person with some common medical conditions should be evaluated for disability.  If a person with a medical condition discussed in the corresponding Listing meets the criteria established, SSA should find that person is disabled.  If you have a rare medical condition, you may not find that the SSA has a Listing for your condition. This does not mean that you can’t be found disabled, but that the SSA must determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  SSA will look at how your conditions and symptoms affect your ability to do work-like tasks and then determine if you can do any jobs with the limitations that you have.   So how do you prove your limitations? The first place the SSA will evaluate will be your medical records.  Therefore, it is important for you to follow up with your doctors as … Continued

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October 16, 2018

Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability

Whether you are a child or an adult, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes learning disabilities as a condition that can pay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  The severity of the condition and its impact on an individual’s functioning can be key factors in receiving benefits. In children’s Social Security disability claims, many aspects of the claim are examined.  These may include, but are not limited to: IQ testing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) 504 Plans School grades Teacher questionnaires Medical Source Statements from treating physicians Progress notes from treating sources The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the SSA that contains specific information related to learning disabilities among other impairments.  The SSA also examines children’s cases under six domains of functioning to determine if a child is functionally equivalent to a listing.  The SSA will look for limitations in the child’s ability to acquire and use information, attend and complete tasks, interact socially, move and manipulate objects, handle their own self-care, or health and physical well-being.  Understanding a child’s Social Security Disability claim can be confusing, as the standard for disability can be different than that of an adult. Adults can also receive Social Security Disability benefits for a learning disability.  The question of whether you can work with a learning disability can be a little tricky to prove to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If you have worked in the past with your learning disability, the ALJ may wonder how it would currently prevent you from working if your condition has not gotten worse.  Sometimes, employers make “accommodations” for this type of worker.  This might be special treatment that the employer is unwilling to give to other workers.  This may include a job coach, multiple reminders of job duties, leaving work … Continued

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August 16, 2018

Can I Receive Social Security Disability If I Had a Heart Attack?

If you or someone you know has had a heart attack and are considering filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there are some things you should consider.  First, if you have not worked or believe you cannot work for twelve (12) consecutive months, it might be in your best interest to file immediately.  Second, you should file for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to ensure you receive the benefits under the program you are entitled to.  This blog will discuss a few ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at cases involving cardiovascular issues. The SSA examines heart related impairments in its Listing of Impairments under Section 4.00.  These listings outline in specific detail what the SSA believes are disabling conditions concerning the cardiovascular system.  If you read these listings, you may find them complicated and difficult to understand.  Many terms in these listings can be understood by a qualified physician or a Medical Expert (ME), who sometimes appear at Social Security Disability Appeals hearings.  My office can generate a “Medical Source Statement” for you to take to your cardiologist to see if you meet or equal these criteria. It is important to note that not all Social Security disability cases are won by meeting or equaling one of these listings.  After a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem, your capacity to work may be so low that you simply cannot work a full-time job, and this may also qualify you for Social Security disability.  The SSA calls this your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  Your RFC could include limitations in sitting, standing, walking, and lifting.  It could also limit your ability to stay on task and to consistently attend work, which may result in termination from employment.  Medical Source Statements from your … Continued

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June 20, 2017

Why should you have a brief for your Social Security disability hearing?

At the Law Office of Scott D. Lewis, we submit representative briefs to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) prior to our clients’ disability hearing.  In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, I find this to be helpful for a variety of reasons.   A well-structured brief can give the ALJ a concise framework for highlighting the important and relevant aspects in regards to a claim for disability. To begin, the brief can outline the procedural aspects or issues with a claim, and show the ALJ what steps or actions have been taken in anticipation of the hearing.  A good brief will show the theory for disability of the case, such as whether the claim meets any Listing of Impairments or whether any of Social Security’s vocational guidelines.  It should cite to a claimant’s medical records to demonstrate the severity of symptoms, point out any objective medical testing, and highlight any medical source statements from treating sources.  A brief should also show how a claimant’s residual functional capacity is so diminished that no full-time jobs could be performed.   In my practice as a Social Security Disability attorney, I find that a brief serves two strong purposes.  First, it allows the ALJ to know what arguments I am asserting for my clients and provides the evidence to support it.  Medical records can contain hundreds of pages of documents, so giving the ALJ the locations of important documents all in one location can prevent some key piece of evidence from being overlooked. Second, I find that it helps me prepare for the hearing. After assembling the brief, I have a stronger understanding of the client, the medical record, and the strategy I plan to use to win the case. Does every ALJ read every brief submitted? Probably not, however … Continued

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