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September 9, 2016

“Off task” at work – does it matter at my Social Security disability hearing?

Social Security disability hearings can be confusing – the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), your attorney, and the experts use a lot of jargon that may make it sound like they are speaking a completely new language.  The basic issue that all of these people are discussing is whether you can perform the duties of a full-time job.  However, Social Security’s rules require that the ALJ provide a detailed explanation of why he or she thinks you can or cannot work.  The ALJ must determine your “residual functional capacity” (RFC), which is a description of what kinds of work-like activities, if any, you are able to perform in spite of your impairments.  The judge must specifically address all the different physical and mental limitations you have. The elements of your physical residual functional capacity – your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, reach, stoop, etc. – are pretty self-explanatory.  The judge must assess how much of an eight-hour work day you are able to do each of these things.  However, as you probably know well, your medical conditions cause problems in many more areas than just your ability to do physical activities.  If you have pain, mental health diagnoses, or medication side effects, you likely have difficulty with mental tasks as well.  Your skills in concentrating, solving problems, and interacting with others are just as vital to your ability to keep a job as your physical capabilities are. Unfortunately, though, it can be difficult to describe how mental limitations affect your ability to work.  Here are some ways you may notice that your mental limitations affect your daily life: You have difficulty sitting through an entire TV show or reading a whole magazine article because your back pain bothers you so much. You start lots of projects, but you never finish … Continued

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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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March 13, 2014

Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability Benefits

Bipolar disorder is a type of mental disorder.  It is usually distinguished by periods of depression that alternate with periods of “mania.”  Sometimes these episodes can be so severe that they impact a person’s ability to live a normal life.  There are five levels of moods associated with bipolar disorder: Severe Mania Hypomania Normal Mood Mild/Moderate Depression Severe Depression Some common signs that go along with these changing moods: Feeling more “high” than normal or very irritable Holding unreasonable beliefs about one’s own abilities Not sleeping much, but having a large amount of energy Talking so quickly that no one else can understand and experiencing racing thoughts Being very distracted or not being able to concentrate Acting very impulsively or recklessly In severe cases, experiencing delusions or hallucinations Bipolar disorder is not curable, but it can be manageable.  Management options may include psychotherapy or medication. The Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies bipolar disorder as an “affective disorder.”  According to the SSA, an affective disorder is “characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.”  Bipolar disorder is listed under Section 12.04 of the Listing of Impairments. When evaluating your Social Security disability case, Social Security will try to determine your “residual functional capacity” (RFC).  Your RFC is defined as your ability to do work-like activities in a work-like setting on a “regular and continuing” basis.  In other words, the SSA is trying to determine your ability to work a normal eight hour a day job. Even though bipolar disorder may not affect your ability to accomplish physical activities, such as standing, carrying, or using your hands, it does affect your ability to work in other ways.  For example, Social … 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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