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How an RFC form can help with a disability claim

Social Security disability applicants typically wait until they are no longer capable of working before they seek benefits. However, this is irrelevant in the ultimate determination of whether they are deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration. For initial applications, a sequential process is conducted by a California or other local claims examiner as laid out in the SSA guidelines.

Among the primary assessments the claim examiner must make is the claimant's residual functional capacity, or RFC, as supported by the medical evidence. The RFC is an attempt to quantify what the claimant is capable of in terms of the ability to perform some sort of meaningful work given the limitations of his or her physical and/or mental problems. Often, a denial of benefits will be issued based on the results of the RFC assessment.

A medical source statement is essentially the same as an RFC with one major difference. An RFC is most often compiled by a medical doctor consulting with the SSA solely for disability applications. The consultant reaches a conclusion simply from a review of the medical records without examining the claimant. A medical source statement comes from an outside doctor -- often the claimant's treating physician.

A medical source statement is typically brought in at a hearing before an administrative law judge after the initial application and reconsideration have resulted in denial. This level of appeal before the administrative law judge is statistically the claimant's best opportunity to be awarded disability benefits. A Social Security disability lawyer can assist in explaining the appeals process.

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