In order to know whether you can do your job (or any other work in the economy), the Long Term Disability (LTD) insurance company needs to know what you are still able to do (your “functional capacity”), after considering the effects of your disability (“residual”).
What Is Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)?
To learn what your residual capabilities are, the insurance company may ask for you to take an Attending Physician’s Statement (APS) form to your doctor (this form is also known as a Residual Functional Capacity form). If the insurance company claims handler does not believe the APS is sufficient (for example, if the doctor’s responses on the form are totally inconsistent with the medical records in the claim), the adjuster may schedule you an appointment to attend an “Independent Medical Examination” by a doctor hired by the insurance company. This doctor will then perform an RFC (residual functional capacity) assessment for your claim. The examiner will determine what level of exertion you are capable of performing, and what restrictions you have that may limit the jobs you can do. The medical examiner may also review your medical records and your doctor’s notes about your functional abilities and restrictions to come up with your RFC.
What Level of Activity Are You Performing?
Your mental RFC will determine whether you can perform work-related mental activities. When evaluating the claimant’s mental residual functional capacity, the claims handler will look at four primary functional areas: (1) understanding and memory; (2) social interactions; (3) sustained concentration, persistence, and pace; and (4) adaptation to changes in the work environment.
Thus, a mental RFC form completed by a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) should make reference to a claimant’s mental impairments due to the claimant’s mental conditions (for example, poor memory, decreased energy, illogical thinking, and so on). The mental RFC should also opine as to the claimant’s ability to persist in the areas of concentration and attention, as well as a claimant’s ability to interact socially in work settings, assimilate new information, and successfully engage in SRRTs (simple, routine, repetitive tasks).
How Your RFC Is Used
If your claim is still within the “own occupation” period, the LTD disability claims examiner will first use your RFC to determine if you can be expected to do your own job. For example, if your prior job was sedentary and your RFC is for sedentary work (or higher), the claims examiner will likely find you should be able to return to your job unless your RFC identifies further non-exertional restrictions (non-exertional impairments may include mental or emotional limitations, such as memory problems from a psychiatric or neurological disorder, or an inability to concentrate).
If your claim is within the “any occupation” period, then the claims examiner will review your RFC to determine whether you could return to any job in the economy.
Note: to be considered able to work, you should be able to work full time, attend work regularly, be productive at work, and not need to take frequent rest breaks.