Qualifying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits depends on having what the Social Security Administration considers “marked” or “extreme” functional limitations. The limitation can be physical, mental, or both, but they must be judged serious enough to prevent the applicant from working 8 hours a day for five days a week at a job he or she has the training and experience to perform.


SSDI adjudicators — the case officers who recommend approving or denying a long-term disability claim — assess each applicant’s residual functional capacity, or RFC. This is defined in a Social Security guidance document as “an individual’s ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular and continuing basis.” Evidence for assigning a score to an applicant’s RFC comes from the following sources:


  • Medical records that include diagnoses, prognoses, and results from occupational therapy
  • The applicant’s personal descriptions of symptoms
  • Laboratory findings
  • Descriptions of symptoms and the applicant’s functioning from parents or a spouse, teachers or employers, and other people who know the person


An SSDI adjudicator may also request demonstrations of certain physical and mental functions, with those tests being conducted and reported by a health care provider named by the SSDI program.


When an applicant for federal disability benefits claims to have limits on his or her physical function, the adjudicator will grade the applicant on the ability to perform sedentary, light, medium, or heavy tasks while engaging in any of the following activities:


  • Bending from the waist
  • Crawling
  • Bending at the knees
  • Adapting to extreme temperatures or sudden changes in temperature
  • Spending time in sunlight or under bright indoor lights
  • Breathing unfiltered air
  • Typing
  • Writing
  • Reaching for objects
  • Manipulating objects
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Speaking


When an SSDI applicant claims mental limitations, the RCP will reflect the person’s abilities to:


  • Follow instructions
  • Maintain concentration
  • Adhere to a schedule
  • Complete tasks without constant supervision
  • Make appropriate decisions
  • Interact with people appropriately
  • Accept the kinds of criticism and correction normal to any job
  • Tolerate work-related stress
  • Report to work on time
  • Meet expectations for personal cleanliness


In addition to giving points for each degree of functionality on the listed criteria, the SSDI adjudicator considers the RCP in relation to the type of work the SSDI applicant has done in the past and is qualified to do in the future. For instance, a carpenter or factory worker may be able to so sedentary typing work, but the person could still be determined to have an extreme limitation because physical disabilities make returning to a construction site or production line impossible.


Collecting, organizing, and presenting all the evidence needed to support a federal disability claim can be difficult and time-consuming. Working with a Cleveland Social Security disability lawyer will help ensure an initial SSDI application is as complete as possible. Enlisting the help of an experienced disability attorney early in the process will also give an applicant a knowledgeable and ready ally should appealing a denial of benefits become necessary.


Let the Cleveland Social Security disability lawyers with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman know how we can be of assistance. Schedule a free consultation online or call us at (800) 678-3318.