Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment

If you’ve applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits based on a diagnosed mental illness or psychological disorder, then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your medical documentation against conditions listed in the Blue Book, which is the listing of potentially disabling conditions used to determine eligibility for SSD benefits. If you don’t meet the listing criteria for a specific condition, then the SSA will need to determine your “mental residual functional capacity” (mental RFC) to decide if you’re eligible for disability benefits.

Mental residual functional capacity is a term used to describe the work you’re able to perform even with the limitations your mental illness places on you. The SSA assess your RFC and then uses that rating to determine if you’re able to work in your previous field or if there are other jobs that you could do despite your mental or psychological limitations.

If the SSA finds your symptoms severely limit your capabilities, then you may be awarded SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to meet the exact listing for your mental illness or psychological disorder in the SSA’s Bluebook to receive disability benefits. You must have a low enough RFC to grant you a medical vocational allowance due to your inability to find and maintain gainful employment for which you would otherwise be qualified.

By evaluating an applicant’s mental residual capacity, the SSA looks at the kinds of mental activities that must be performed on the job. And, by evaluating each activity, the SSA seeks to determine if you are moderately, significantly, or markedly limited.

What is Residual Functional Capacity?

Eligibility for Social Security disability benefits is determined by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) consideration of several different factors. In addition to the SSA using your disability as a metric to base their decision regarding your eligibility, they also consider whether you are able to work with your condition. As such, your eligibility for mental health disability benefits will depend on whether or not your disability impedes your capacity to perform work-related activities on a regular basis, specifically for a full 40-hour work week. This evaluation of your ability to work is referred to as your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). More specifically, the SSA will assess your residual functionality in order to ultimately determine what work activities you can perform despite your mental disability.

What Is A Mental Residual Functional Capacity?

Just like a physical RFC formevaluates one’s ability to perform daily tasks and basic functions required for work when someone has a physical health condition, a mental Residual Functional Capacity (mental RFC) assesses one’s ability to do those same things when someone has a mental health condition or mental illness.

How Is Mental Residual Functional Capacity Determined?

The SSA determines applicants’ mental RFC by evaluating the results of their mental Residual Functional Capacity assessment. A mental Residual Functional Capacity assessment is a comprehensive questionnaire that spans four to five pages. The mental RFC covers various mental abilities that are required for work as well as how exactly you are able to perform them as a result of your mental health condition. The mental RFC is completed by an disability benefits applicant’s doctor.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity assessments can make major strides in helping people get approved for disability benefits by the SSA. This is because the mental RFC allows one’s doctor to explain, in detail, how their patient’s mental condition has impacted their daily lives and ability to work. Once completed and submitted alongside your application for disability benefits, the mental RFC is assessed as another strong form of evidence of the disabling nature of your condition. And this is why a mental Residual Functional Capacity assessment can boost one’s chances of receiving disability benefits.

How Will My Mental RFC Be Evaluated By The SSA?

When evaluating mental residual functional capacity, the SAA looks at four primary functional areas: understanding and memory, social interactions, sustained concentration and persistence, and adaptation.

If you’re found markedly limited in one or more of these areas, then you may be granted SSD under a medical vocational allowance. If however, you are found to be moderately limited in performing unskilled labor, for example, then the SSA can deny you SSD benefits based on the idea you should be able to find and maintain work in a different position in which unskilled labor is the central requirement for employment.

The SSA also looks at your intellectual capabilities when evaluating mental residual capacity. They will take both medical and non-medical information and details into consideration when deciding if you should be granted medical vocational allowance.

The medical documentation includes the standard doctors’ statements, diagnostic test results, and other traditional records from medical and mental health professionals. The non-medical evidence can include reports from family, friends, coworkers and former supervisors or assisted living staff.

Additional Resources

  • Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment