Massachusetts Court Explains Work Capacity in the Context of Social Security

When people apply for Social Security Disability benefits, they will typically undergo examinations that result in the issuance of residual capacity forms (RFC), which describe their abilities to work and the extent to which they are deemed disabled. If an administrative law judge does not grant an RFC proper weight or renders a decision that is inconsistent with it, it can adversely impact a claimant’s outcome. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed how RFCs weigh into administrative law judge’s decisions in social security disability benefits claims, in a matter in which the claimant argued her claim was unjustly denied. If you cannot work due to a disability, you may be able to recover social security benefits, and it is advisable to speak with a trusted Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney about your options.

The Claimant’s Case

It is reported that the claimant, who is 52-years-old, has a high school education and became disabled in October 2016. She was unable to engage in any substantially gainful activity since she was injured in a fall accident, which is when her disability began. Prior to becoming disabled, she worked as a respiratory therapist, which is listed as a medium exertion and skilled position.

Allegedly, in July 2017, the claimant filed an application seeking social security disability benefits. Based on numerous examinations, she was found to be capable of sedentary work, and in consideration of her age, RFC, and education level, it was concluded that she could engage in other work. Thus, she was deemed not disabled and denied benefits. She appealed.

Residual Capacity Forms in the Context of Social Security Disability Claims

On appeal, the claimant argued that her RFC limited her to sedentary work and deemed her unsuitable for light work, and therefore the administrative law judge’s decision, which relied on three light-duty jobs, was inconsistent with her RFC. She also argued that the error determined the outcome of her case, as a person over 50 who is limited to sedentary work is deemed disabled under the applicable guidelines.

The court noted that the operations manual for the Social Security Administration provides that the RFC represents the most that a person can do despite limitations. A judge must consider all allegations of mental and physical limitations and make a diligent effort to ensure that the file contains adequate evidence to assess the RFC. A judge’s assessment of the credibility of a claimant is entitled to deference, and where the record is inconsistent, the judge can disregard subjective reports of pain. In the subject case, the appellate court found that there was substantial evidence to support the administrative law judge’s finding that the claimant could perform light work. Specifically, he considered the entire record in evaluating her RFC and found that her complaints were inconsistent with the record. As such, the claimant’s appeal was denied.

Speak to an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney

Many people are unable to work due to physical and mental disabilities, but if their disabilities are not properly evaluated, they may be denied social security benefits. If you cannot earn an income because of a disability, experienced Social Security Disability attorney James K. Meehan can assist you in pursuing any benefits you may be owed, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.