Mental and physical disabilities can both contribute to qualification for Social Security benefits, but these claims are handled in different ways. Here, the disability rights advocates at Disability Associates explain how mental and physical disability cases are handled, and how to maximize benefits.

In the case of both physical and mental disabilities, a disability claims examiner will fill out a “Residual Functional Capacity”, or RFC, assessment form to determine how exactly an applicant is disabled. An RFC form will stipulate what an applicant is and is not able to do. There are some differences between RFC forms for mental disabilities and physical disabilities, as detailed below.

Physical Disabilities

A physical RFC will explain to which level of exertion an applicant can work: sedentary, light, medium, or heavy. The exertional level of an applicant is based on the more strenuous aspects of a job, such as walking or standing, and lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling objects. The level determined for your condition will impact whether you are considered disabled, and thus entitled to benefits.

Limitations that are not strength-based, or non-exertional limitations, are also factored into a physical RFC. These include fine motor skills, such as writing or handling objects, as well as sensory disabilities, such as difficulty hearing or seeing.

Finally, a physical RFC will also include a consultative exam, or CE, which is essentially a brief physical check-up from an independent doctor.

There are several specific guidelines for Social Security disability to help streamline the process. These are based on age, and what level of exertional and non-exertional work you can now perform. If, for example, you are 55 or older and only able to do light work, you automatically qualify for disability benefits.

The only way these guidelines are not followed is if the applicant’s past job was equivalent to the level of work they can now do, or if they have had training in a job at that former level.

Mental Disabilities

As with physical disabilities, mental disabilities require their own RFC form. A mental RFC form will stipulate how emotionally and cognitively capable of handling a job you are.

This can include many different aspects of work: working towards deadlines and on schedule, remembering and following instructions, interacting with coworkers, handling stress, accepting criticism or change, maintaining an acceptable appearance, and more.

If an applicant is unable to complete any simple, unskilled jobs, due to mental limitations they may be considered completely disabled, and eligible for such benefits.

There aren’t specific age guidelines for mental RFC’s, but the requirements of an applicant’s past job will be compared to that of their current levels of limitation. Furthermore, a mental RFC will require a more extensive consultative exam, the results of which will have a much larger impact on your disability benefits outcome.

To ensure that your RFC’s are correct and up-to-date, it is best practice to have your primary care physician document your physical and mental disabilities as well, providing their insight into the tasks you can and cannot perform.

At Disability Associate’s we work hard to ensure you receive the benefits you rightly deserve. For a consultation, or to acquire legal representation, contact us today!