Social Security Disability: What is an Applicant’s RFC?

In the Social Security Disability process, RFC stands for “Residual Functional Capacity.”   In determining one’s disability status, the Social Security Administration defines RFC as the capacity to perform work-related physical and mental activities on a “regular and continuing basis.”  “Regular and continuing” work means a full work schedule of 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.

In application, the SSA looks at functional limitations and restrictions, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, movement, and manipulative restrictions.   The SSA also may evaluate non-exertional limitations such as comprehension, concentration or memory deficits.   Following a function by function assessment of work-related abilities, the SSA typically expresses an RFC in terms of exertional categories, including heavy, medium, light, sedentary or less than sedentary.

The finding of any specific RFC does not, by itself, determine one’s eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits, as the SSA also takes age and prior work history into consideration.  For example, a 40 year old with a sedentary RFC may not qualify for benefits under SSA rules, while a 55 year old with the same restrictions may qualify if his prior work experience did not include sedentary work.