December 10, 2018

The Functional Capacity Strategy

To win your Lupus disability claim using a functional capacity argument, you have to be able to show Social Security how your illness prevents you from being able to work.  It is not enough to simply prove that you are sick; you must really elaborate on how your sickness limits your abilities to perform even simple, unskilled work.  In other words, you must be able to translate your medical condition into specific work limitations.  These limitations are the bread and butter of a winning Lupus case.

How to Prove that Lupus Keeps You From Working

To do this, a good lawyer will discuss the functional limitations that arise from your medical conditions. Are there any limitations as to the amount of time you can stand, sit, walk, use your hands and feet, etc.?

To prove that your capacity to perform work activity has been so diminished by your Lupus that you can no longer work, you will have to highlight the symptoms of your condition as well as how these symptoms keep you from being able to perform any work activity.This method of arguing disability based on Lupus is known as the functional capacity argument for Lupus. In order to prove that someone meets the standard for functional capacity, a person must prove that that because of their condition they will be unable to perform the most simple job in the job market.

To do this you will need good medical records to back up your claim. Doctor’s observations and various lab tests are usually things that a judge needs to see during a Social Security hearing based on Lupus. Other things a judge needs to see during a Social Security hearing are medical documents of the symptoms, documentation of a history of treatment, and proof that the person has actually received treatment. Also the judge might want to see testimonial evidence to prove extreme fatigue due to the condition.

Luckily, Judges usually award lupus patients with Social Security benefits when they hear cases.  They often understand that lupus is a cureless, progressive, and chronic condition.  Problems sometimes arise if the doctor fails to document the disease based on criteria accepted by the medical community. It can also be a problem if the patient does not see a doctor regularly.

The Functional Capacity Checklist for Lupus

Experienced disability lawyers often use functional capacity checklist forms to support their arguments.   These forms are presented to your treating doctor and make it easy for your doctor to identify the various activity and mental limitations that affect you and keep you from working.   Lawyers often call these forms “RFC forms” – RFC stands for “residual functional capacity,” which is the legal term that Social Security uses to describe the limitations in your capacity to function.

A good functional capacity form helps your doctor translate your medical issues into specific work limitations.   Most judges will assign a great deal of weight to the opinion of a treating doctor who has seen you for an extended period of time.   The RFC form uses the work capacity language that judges are concerned with and speaks to job performance and reliability – the main issues in your case.

Most experienced disability lawyers have created their own functional capacity forms that they use in lupus disability cases.  If you would like a case review from such an experienced disability lawyer, please fill out the “case evaluation’ form on the right.