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What is the residual functional capacity?

For many Georgia residents, the legal system can be confusing and intimidating. This is understandable, as individuals typically have little in depth encounters with the legal system until they become personally involved in a case.

Even if someone has had some general experience in the legal system, the experience can vary widely depending on the type of case at issue. For example, the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits is unique, even within the legal system.

Last week, this blog discussed how a vocational expert is often called to testify about an applicant's inability to work. The vocational expert's testimony is related to the person's residual functional capacity, which is a legal term dealing with the physical and mental work functions the person can perform despite the person's impairment. If the person is not engaging in substantial gainful activity and has at least one severe impairment that does not meet a listing, the person's residual functional capacity is examined under the federal requirements.

The residual functional capacity looks at what the person can still do on a regular and continuing basis. Accordingly, it is not a test of what the person may be able to do momentarily, but for eight hours a day, five days a week or an equivalent work schedule.

Ultimately, while the residual functional capacity is just one step is the process, it is important because it can make or break the person's application for SSD benefits for injury. As a result, individuals applying for disability benefits should understand what must be shown to satisfy this test, in order to put themselves in a better position to obtain benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Vocational expert handbook," accessed on April 30, 2016

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