How does SSA determine your mental or physical ability to work
To deem eligible for the disability benefits, the SSA would determine if you can perform substantial gainful activity, SGA through the Residual Functional Capacity, RFC.
Your RFC will be an assessment of your limitations and activities you can or cannot perform. You will have to prove to the SSA that you are unable to continue working or doing work without keeping up with work quality as in the past by filing and submitting the RFC form to the SSA.
To determine your capabilities, a disability claims examiner would analyze your roles in the past job and determine if you can still perform the same way. The disability examiner will work closely with a medical professional at the Disability Determination Services, DDS to analyze your capabilities.
How the RFC works?
For the vocational expert working together with a physician, it needs to be clear how your present impairments limit you from performing on your past jobs. For instance, if you worked at cargo and lifted 40 pounds of material daily, the exertion level of your past job is defined under medium difficulty. For your vocational expert or a physician to state that you are unable to continue that job, they would need medical evidence to prove that you can no longer lift more than 25 pounds on a regular basis let alone 40 pounds daily.
So, in addition to comparing your past and present capabilities regarding your job description the vocational expert or the administrative law judge, ALJ (in case of an ALJ hearing) would compare each capability function-to-function as stated in the RFC form.
How the job description or job title affects the RFC decision?
During your hearing, your disability attorney will ask you important details about your work, such as the job title, your main duties listed in the job description, and the physical exertion levels or requirements of the job, such as how much you were required to lift and how often, if the work involved pushing or pulling, how long you were on your feet, the number of hours you worked, and whether you were able to sit down or take a rest when needed.
So, it is imperative that the vocational expert uses the right titles for your job. The vocational expert would choose a title from the list of Dictionary of Occupational Titles, DOT that suits your job functionalities the best. However, similarly titled jobs may be having different descriptions from your work such as a clerk managing mails and notices in a company may be stated as secretary of mail duties in another. This will adversely affect your RFC application if the duties considered under a similarly titled job were never required of you at your workplace.
This situation is very common when claimants fail to understand the importance of communicating with their vocational experts openly and provide all the necessary details of their work place functionalities that they may consider trivial. It would matter a lot in your long-term application, so you should consider talking to a disability attorney to work closely with you and your vocational expert to make sure that your application is filed perfectly.