Tag Archives: RFC

Common Social Security Disability Terms

ALJ – Administrative Law judge.  This is the person who will be making the decision about your disability at the hearing level.  The Judge runs the hearing, will ask you questions, and will ask questions of any experts present.

DDS – Disability Determination Services.  This is the agency, usually a state one, that makes the decision on your disability at the initial and reconsideration levels.  They are not judges and the ALJ is not bound by their decisions.

DIB – Disability Insured Benefits, also know as Title II claims or SSDI Benefits.  Think of this program like buying a long term disability policy.  Each quarter in a year that you have income, you can earn a quarter of coverage.  Enough quarters and you are eligible for this program.  But, if you don’t work or stop working, your coverage can end.

SSI – Supplemental Security Income, also know as Title XVI claims.  This is a poverty based disability program in which eligibility is based on the household income and assets.

AOD – Alleged Onset Date.  The date you told Social Security that you think you became disabled.

DLI – Date Last Insured.  The date that your eligibility for DIB benefits ends.

DLW – Date Last Worked.  The date you last earned any money from working.  In many cases this is also the alleged onset date, but not all cases.

RFC – Residual Function Capacity.  What work activities you can do after taking into account all your conditions and symptoms.

Protective Filing Date – The date that your SSI benefits are potentially retroactive to.  This may also be a retroactive date for your DIB benefits if your alleged onset date is more than 12 months prior to this date.

Back Due Benefits – Also called Retroactive Benefits.  The lump sum payment you receive, once approved, in a lump sum to cover the benefits you were due from the date you became disabled to the present.

CE Consultative Exam.  An exam requested by and paid for by SOcial Security to provide further evidence in your case.

VE – Vocational Expert.  An expert who may testify at your hearing about potential jobs that match an RFC.

ME – Medical Expert.  A doctor who testifies at hearing regarding your medical conditions.  NOTE : This is not any of your doctors.  The ME will never have treated or examined you and only reviews the medical evidence in the file.

While this list is not exhaustive of all the terminology that may be used during your Social Security disability case, these are the most important for you to know from the start


What Social Security does not consider in deciding your claim

Clients often ask my what Social Security considers in determining their claim.  I tell them that Social Security looks at their medical records, doctor’s statements, and their own statements to create a residual function capacity (rfc).  This is essentially what activities SSA believes you can do after taking into account all your restrictions.  They then apply the RFC to jobs that exist in the national economy to make a decision.  But there are things Social Security does not consider.  Social Security works in a hypothetical world, not reality.   Thus, for SSA many things that matter to the claimant do not matter to them.

1) Social Security does not consider how much money you were making at your previous work and how much you would make at the jobs they say you can do.  It doesn’t matter to Social Security that the job they say you can do is at minimum wage and you won’t be able to pay your bills doing it.  If you can perform the job, then you’re not disabled. (subject to specific grid rules for those over 50)

2) Social Security does not consider if any employer would hire you.  That’s right.  Social Security will not consider whether an employer would actually hire you to do the job they say you can do.  The question is not whether you can get the employment, but rather if you had the employment could you do the job.

3) Social Security does not consider whether any employers for those jobs are actually hiringanyone.  Like the above, Social Security does not ask if any local employers are hiring.  They only look at how many jobs exist and whether or nor you could perform that job if given the chance.

4) Social Security does not consider if any of these jobs are located near your home.  When determining job numbers, Social Security uses both a regional number and a national number.  I have seen regions used at hearing that cover anything from a metro are (which could cover over 100 miles) to an entire state.  Social Security does not consider how far away from your current residence these jobs may be located in determining whether you can do those jobs.  The expectation by Social Security is that you will just have to up and move for employment.

5) Social Security does not consider any difficulties you have getting to a job.  The only time this is considered is if your condition is what causes the difficulties.  For example you have seizures and your doctors and the state have restricted your ability to drive.   So Social Security will not take into account that you cannot afford a car, that public transportation is not available, that you lost your licenses due to a DUI (OVI), or other license suspension  or that you have to rely on family and friends to get you from place to place.  Social Security treats you as if you will do whatever it takes to be employed.

Social Security functions under the unrealistic idea that a person applying for disability should do anything to find employment.  The claimant should assume many risks, including uprooting themselves, regardless of the costs or expense, for work.  These are the harsh reality and the high burden of proving your disability case.

For assistance with your disability case call (330) 203-1476 for a free consultation or visit my website


Chronic pain and mental Health

Time and time again I meet clients just starting their disability applications.  They’ve recently been injured or stopped working due to a condition that is causing them chronic pain, loss of mobility, and no loss of employment.  Over the course of waiting for a hearing, many of these clients are subsequently also diagnosed with depression.  It is well known that chronic pain and depression can go hand in hand, each feeding off each other.  See Pain and depression: Is there a link?

When trying to get Social Security disability benefits, it is important to address depression if it occurs.  Social Security must consider ALL your impairments, even the ones that are not severe enough to be disabling by themselves.  But the effects of the condition may further restrict your ability to work.

If you believe your chronic pain is causing depression, talk to your doctor.  Document the depression and make sure Social Security hears about it.

For more information on chronic pain and depression see Depression and Chronic Pain

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