How exactly does Social Security review a claimant’s ability to work?
In reviewing a claimant’s ability to work, Social Security will evaluate a claimant’s medical records and then rate the claimant’s limitations in performing the physical and mental functions of their last job or jobs they have held in the last 15 years. They will also research other similar jobs that utilize a claimant’s education and training history.
All claimants are rated for their Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), which defines their ability to function in certain ways. One example is a rating of “sedentary,” which means a claimant can perform work that requires minimal exertion and is performed while sitting. There are also ratings for light, medium, heavy, and very heavy work.
Social Security may also rate a claimant for a mental RFC, which examines things like a claimant’s ability to concentrate, their ability to learn and recall information, and their ability to interact in social settings and deal appropriately with coworkers and supervisors.
The physical and mental RFC ratings are assessed and then compared to a claimant’s previous job requirements to determine whether a claimant can return to that job. If a claimant is deemed as unable to return to their last job, then the RFC rating will then be compared to other jobs for which a claimant may qualify for, based on their education and work history.
Note – medical records are extremely important here, as they will form the basis of any argument supporting a claimant’s inability to return to work. It is also very valuable to get a Qualified Support Statement from a treating physician to state a relationship between an injury and an inability to perform certain types of work. These are routinely gathered by attorneys when pursuing disability claims, and they carry weight with administrative law judges should the claim go to the appeals process.