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How Arthritis Affects Your Residual Functional Capacity to Work

arthritis, RFC, Chicago SSDI lawyerIn previous posts we have explained how arthritis may qualify you for Social Security Disability insurance benefits and why it is not enough to simply claim you are unable to work due to arthritis without supporting evidence. An important consideration for Social Security when assessing a disability claim is how arthritis, taken in combination with all of an applicant’s medical disorders, affects his or her “residual functional capacity,” or RFC—that is, their ability to work taking into account all such limitations. An RFC assessment is critical to a disability case, yet many Social Security officials fail to follow the law in this area.

Are You Capable of Even Performing “Sedentary” Work?

A Social Security claims examiner typically performs an RFC assessment for each applicant. The applicant may also ask his or her own treating physician to complete an independent RFC assessment. This is generally a good idea as your own doctor will have a much better understanding of your medical history and functional limitations than a government bureaucrat.

The RFC assessment itself is a form that asks a number of questions designed to give Social Security an idea of what work, if any, you are still capable of performing. For example, the RFC asks if you are capable of standing or sitting for 6 to 8 hours at a time, as is required for most full-time employment. Arthritis often prevents a person from doing either. Arthritis can also affect your ability to perform repetitive physical motions, such as reaching over your head or handling objects, that are also part of a typical workday.

In many cases, severe arthritis will lead to an RFC stating the claimant can only perform “sedentary” work that does not involve much standing or lifting. But there are also cases where a physician or Social Security examiner may determine an applicant is not even capable of that and issues an RFC for “less than sedentary” work.

It is also important to note that arthritis is often not the only medical impairment an applicant presents to Social Security. As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has noted on many occasions, in evaluating a disability applicant’s RFC, Social Security must consider “all limitations that arise from medically determinable impairments, even those that are not severe.” In one case, the Seventh Circuit ordered Social Security to reconsider a disability claim because the applicant’s obesity, taken in combination with her arthritis, meant she possibly could not even perform sedentary work requiring her to sit for up to six hours per day, as the disability examiner claimed.

Get Help from a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer

Dealing with Social Security is never easy. Even with extensive medical records and an RFC from your treating physician demonstrating you are physically unable to work, there is always a chance Social Security will deny your initial claim for disability benefits. That is why you need help from an experienced Chicago Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Pearson Disability Law today if you need to speak with someone about your disability case right away.



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