The residual functioning capacity test for disability benefits

Although the Social Security Administration maintains a listing of conditions, disorders and injuries that may qualify for disability benefits, many individuals considering applying for disability benefits might still have questions.

For example, applicants might have questions about whether their particular impairment is eligible for Social Security disability insurance payments. Other workers may have a medical condition that prevents them from working on a regular basis, yet they are still able to perform some work duties.

In both cases, a disability examiner at the SSA will assess an applicant’s residual functioning capacity. That means that SSA officials will look for whatever work-related activities an applicant can still perform, in spite of the limitations presented by his or her disability. Keep in mind that work-related activities may be cognitive, physical, manipulative or postural, or relate to an individual’s tolerance to environmental conditions.

Although that assessment is comprehensive, an applicant should not mistakenly assume that only serious sounding conditions are eligible for SSDI benefits. Even a condition like depression may prevent an individual from holding a job.

It’s also a common myth to think that an initial denial is the last word. Rather, an initial application is typically decided on the papers. If an applicant appeals, he or she will be granted the opportunity to present evidence at a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. That can be an excellent opportunity to supplement an application with additional reports from a worker’s physician or other medical provider. Of course, the wait time in between an initial filing and an appeal can be months. With the help of a disability benefits attorney, an applicant might get it right the first time.