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Mental limitations and your ability to adapt to new work

  • Published: April 4, 2012

The Social Security Administration will need to determine your mental residual functional capacity or RFC if you have a mental disorder. This involves an evaluation of the extent to which your mental impairment affects your ability to perform work- related activities, including your ability to retain information, concentrate, interact with others and adjust to change.

A mental RFC assesses whether you have the capacity for skilled, semiskilled, unskilled, or below unskilled work.

Many jobs require only unskilled work. Unskilled work involves uncomplicated tasks that can be learned on the job in a short period of time, usually 30 days or less, and that require little or no judgment on the part of the worker. An example of an unskilled job is machine tending (feeding or removing materials from machines that are automatic or operated by others).

The Social Security Administration will likely not approve your application for disability benefits if you have the mental ability to perform at least unskilled work, unless you also have a physical impairment that limits your work capacity.

On the other hand, if you have a clear impairment in any of the abilities required for unskilled work, you will be awarded Social Security disability benefits, even if you do not have a physical impairment. In order to qualify, you must show that you have a substantial loss of the ability to meet any of several basic work-related activities on a sustained basis, defined as 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.

Mental activities that are generally required by competitive, paid, unskilled work include:

  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work pressures in a work setting.
  • Managing changes in routine.
  • Comprehending, remembering and carrying out instructions.
  • The ability to make simple work-related decisions.

The Social Security Administration will assess your RFC based on all the relevant evidence in you case record, such as:

  • Medical records;
  • Medical history;
  • Medical reports;
  • Medical signs and laboratory findings;
  • Medical source statements from treating physicians;
  • Effects of treatment, including limitations or restrictions imposed by the mechanics of treatment (e.g., frequency of treatment, duration, disruption to routine, side effects of medication);
  • Effects of symptoms, including pain, that are reasonably attributed to a medically determinable impairment;
  • Reports of daily activities;
  • Lay evidence;
  • Observations of your limitations from your impairment provided by you, your family, neighbors, friends or other persons;
  • Recorded observations;
  • Evidence from attempts to work;
  • Need for a structured living environment; and
  • Work evaluations, if available.

If you are seeking Florida Social Security disability benefits and would like help from a skilled Ocala disability lawyer, contact Claudeth Henry.  To schedule your free initial consultation, complete the form on this page or phone (352) 304-5300.


Claudeth Henry

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