What Is Residual Functional Capacity And How Does It Affect My Disability Claim?

Because of how variable disability can be for different people, the SSA will have to look closely at your individual level impairment to determine how your condition affects your ability to work. For example, a person with limited mobility may be able to work a job that does not require walking, whereas a person with a degenerative disease may be unable to work at all.

To determine your individual profile of abilities and disabilities, the SSA uses a metric called Residual Functional Capacity.

How Residual Functional Capacity can affect your disability claim

Put simply, residual functional capacity is the SSA’s assessment of what you are not able to do because of your disability, and what you are able to do in spite of your disability.

Your Residual Functional Capacity involves both physical and mental limitations. These limitations may be directly connected to your disability, or they may be side effects of treatment that you’re receiving.

Important components of your Residual Functional Capacity include physical stamina, concentration, alertness, and coping abilities. To determine your Residual Functional Capacity, the SSA may ask you questions about abilities like:

  • How long you can stand, sit, or walk.
  • How much you can lift, and how many times.
  • Whether or not you can adapt to changes in the workplace.
  • How well you can understand instructions.
  • Your ability to work with other people and get along with them.
  • Your level of alertness.

Once the SSA has this information, they will determine what kind of work you are able to do. The kinds of work are divided by the level of exertion they require:


  • Sedentary work mainly involves seated tasks, and generally does not require lifting more than 10 lbs at a time you may be expected to carry small tools or other things that you will not be expected to exert yourself significantly.


  • Light work may require lifting up to 20 pounds, or lifting up to 10 pounds on a regular basis, as well as more frequent standing and walking.


  • Medium work means work requiring you to lift up to 50 lbs at a time or 25 lb frequently. Medium work also may involve frequent walking.


  • Heavy work is work that requires you to lift heavier weight, up to 100 pounds at once or up to 50 pounds frequently.


  • Very heavy work involves lifting over 100 pounds at once, or over 50 pounds regularly. If you can do this kind of work, you can be expected to do all levels of work below it.

In addition to physical exertion, you may have specific restrictions involving certain types of movement or certain tasks, such as tasks involving mental exertion.

Residual Functional Capacity is one of the most important parts of your Social Security Disability claim, but it can also be one of the most difficult to understand. To make things easier, contact us and we’ll connect you to an experienced disability advocate and legal counselor. Call, email, or send a text message to our offices to schedule a free consultation.