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How Age, Education, and Residual Functional Capacity Help Cincinnati Residents Get Social Security Disability

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Dayna Wilson, a law clerk at Lawrence and Associates, who is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at Chase College of Law.

This blog is designed to provide you with an easy understanding on how three important factors – age, education, and residual functional capacity – all work together to determine the amount of Social Security Disability you may receive.

How is Residual Functional Capacity Determined?

There are many factors to be considered when determining if you can collect Social Security benefits. One important factor is called residual functional capacity (RFC). When determining your ability to work, Social Security evaluates your residual functional capacity. Social Security will assess the types of activities and tasks an applicant can still perform on a regular and continued basis. A Social Security disability claim will only be approved if it is established that you cannot perform any work.

The Code of Federal Regulations, defines residual functional capacity as what an individual can do despite limitations. Residual functional capacity will take into account all limitations and medical conditions. In other words, Social Security will evaluate how much you can do and how long it will take to perform the function. A Social Security claim examiner will assess all impairments, including serious and minor impairments when evaluating residual functional capacity. Manipulative or postural activities are assessed such as reaching, handling, and lifting. Environmental conditions are considered such as the ability to tolerate high and low temperatures or wet and dry conditions. The RFC also encompasses mental conditions such as the ability to maintain concentration and attention for extended periods of time. Also, how well you can understand and remember duties throughout the day are considered. When these important factors are not clearly explained in your medical records, Social Security often finds you can perform these functions. It is important your doctor assess your ability to twist, bend, reach, grasp, kneel, and climb. Social Security also takes into account nonexertional factors such ability to follow directions; perform work at a normal rate and persistence throughout the day; and one’s overall reliability.

What happens if one retains Residual Functional Capacity?

If residual functional capacity is obtained to perform any common work in the national economy, an individual will not be found to be disabled. If Social Security examiners determine you can perform light, semi-skilled work, examiners will compare your residual functional capacity with those in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and will match you with any jobs listed in that publication which call for light, semi-skilled work.

What is the importance of Residual Functional Capacity?

A complete understanding of all the factors that go into residual functional capacity determination is important for you to have a successful Social Security disability claim. In the Cincinnati Social Security office, medical records are an essential component in the determination of residual functional capacity. Often times, many of the factors such as bending, twisting, and kneeling are irrelevant to a doctor’s actual treatment of a medical condition. However, they are important for a Social Security Administration (SSA) examiner in determining benefits because SSA focuses on your functional ability not just your medical history.

How Does Social Security Determine your Social Security Benefits Eligibility?

Social Security uses your “Full Retirement Age” to determine the amount of monthly income you will receive. Full retirement age is based on your year and day of birth. Full Retirement Age determines when you are able to receive your full benefit amount. If you have started claiming benefits before your full retirement age, you become eligible for delayed retirement credits.

What is the difference Between Retirement Age and Stop Work Age?

Retirement age and stop work age must be distinguished in order to get a better understanding of how age can affect Social Security benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, your retirement age is the age at which you begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits. Stop Age is the age at which you leave the labor force and no longer work. This age affects the amount of Social Security benefits you may collect. Retirement benefits are based on your highest 35 years of earnings and your age when you start receiving benefits.

What Happens if you Stop Work Before your Retirement Age?

Social Security Administration will use a zero for each year without earnings, then they complete their calculations to determine the amount of retirement benefits you are due. If you stop working between the age of 62 and full retirement age, you may receive reduced benefits. The earliest you can start receiving retirement benefits is age 62. If you retire when you reach full retirement age, you will receive retirement benefits. In the Greater Cincinnati area, many individuals often work past full retirement age. Here, you are presented with two options: you can work and get full retirement benefits no matter how much you earn; the second option is to delay getting retirement benefits and earn credits that increase your benefit amount.

Are there any consequences of claiming Social Security Early?

There are consequences for receiving Social Security benefits early. If you are married you are reducing the survivor benefit available to your spouse. This will occur if your benefit amount is greater than theirs. Next, if you claim Social Security Benefits before your full retirement age and continue employment and make too much, then benefits will be reduced. It is important to note; investment income does not count toward the annual earnings limit. The only income that counts is income earned by working.

How does Education Affect Social Security Disability?

When applying for Social Security Disability, the Social Security Administration will ask what is the highest level of education you have completed. This information is used to assist with determining what kind of work you are capable of performing given your age and impairments. Education level can be measured to determine one’s ability to adapt to skilled work. The presence of additional education does not necessarily mean you can perform skilled work. A judge may determine the education you have received is outdated that it doesn’t affect your ability to perform present work. If you are over the age of 50, it is important to have your education evaluated. The rules assume that older individuals who cannot perform their past work because of physical and/or mental limitations will have the hardest time adapting to new work given their again. Therefore, it is generally easier for older individuals to be approved.

Age, education, and residual functional capacity all work together to determine the amount of benefits you will receive. It is essential for you to know how these are assessed and we want to make it easier for you to receive benefits. At Lawrence & Associates, we want to help you recover the benefits you have worked hard for. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class; call us today for a free, confidential consultation!