TN 55 (02-10)
DI 24510.057 Sustainability and the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment
Sections 223(d) and 1614(a) of the Social Security Act, as amended.
Regulations No. 4, subpart P, Sections 404.1513, 404.1520, 404.1520a, 404.1545, 404.1546, 404.1560, 404.1569a, and
Appendix 2; and Regulations No. 16, subpart I, Sections 416.913, 416.920, 416.920a, 416.945, 416.946, 416.960, 416.969a; and
Social Security Ruling 96-8p.
A. Policy for Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
RFC represents the most a claimant can do despite his or her limitations or restrictions. Ordinarily, RFC is the individual's maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities:
In an ordinary work setting,
On a regular and continuing basis, and
For 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.
However, if a claimant is unable to sustain a 40-hour workweek because of a severe medically determinable impairment (MDI), the adjudicator or medical consultant must discuss sustainability in the RFC.
B. Procedure for assessing the RFC
1. Claimant’s ability to sustain a 40-hour workweek
In assessing RFC, consider the claimant’s ability to perform work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis and describe the maximum amount of each work-related activity the claimant can perform on a sustained basis based on the evidence available in the case record.
2. Claimant’s inability to sustain a 40-hour workweek
If a claimant is unable to sustain work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis, explain why the claimant is not capable of sustaining a 40-hour workweek.
In most cases, the exertional and nonexertional limitations resulting from an MDI can be described using the functions listed in the check boxes on the RFC. (For completion of the RFC form, see DI 24510.050, DI 24510.061, and DI 24510.063 through DI 24510.065.) If the claimant is not capable of sustaining a 40-hour workweek, the check boxes should reflect the conclusions reached in the narrative portion of the RFC.
In other cases, the claimant may have limitations that prevent him or her from sustaining a 40-hour workweek which cannot be described using the functions listed in the RFC checkboxes. In these rare instances, it may not be possible to complete all of the check boxes. The adjudicator should explain in the narrative how the claimant’s MDI(s) prevents him or her from sustaining a 40-hour workweek.
3. Partial completion of the RFC
In fully favorable decisions, the adjudicative team does not have to complete every block on the RFC form (DI 24510.066A, Options to Simplify Case Processing). If a claimant is unable to sustain a 40-hour workweek:
Complete the check boxes that are relevant to the inability to sustain a 40-hour workweek; and
Provide a narrative rationale explaining how this determination that the claimant is unable to sustain a 40-hour work week was reached. (For narrative requirements, see DI 24510.057B.4. in this section.)
EXAMPLE: A claimant has exertional limitations resulting from an MDI that limit him or her to lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and standing and walking 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. However, the claimant cannot sustain this activity for more than 3 days per week due to excessive pain, fatigue, and side effects of medications. Therefore, the claimant is unable to sustain a 40-hour workweek.
4. RFC narrative requirements
In all cases involving inability to sustain a 40-hour workweek, the narrative must:
Clearly explain how and why the medical evidence (signs, symptoms, laboratory findings) and other evidence support the conclusion;
Provide a detailed explanation of what limitation(s) the claimant has that render him or her unable to sustain a 40-hour workweek;
Provide an in-depth analysis of what prevents the claimant from sustaining work activity, and not just repeat what is contained in the RFC check boxes;
Evaluate the claimant’s statements about pain, fatigue, and other symptoms;
Address all medical source statements in the case file; and
Consider limitations and restrictions imposed by all of an individual’s impairments, even those that are not “severe”.
5. Part-time work that is substantial gainful activity (SGA)
If a claimant’s RFC reflects an inability to sustain a 40-hour workweek and he or she has part-time past relevant work (PRW), address in the file whether the claimant can sustain the part-time PRW. If a claimant’s RFC reflects an inability to sustain a 40-hour work week and he/she has part time past relevant work, do a function-by-function comparison of the claimant’s RFC and the requirements of his/her relevant part time work. The file must specifically address the number of hours the claimant performed the part-time PRW and the claimant’s ability to sustain the work as he or she describes it. (For example, if the claimant worked 30 hours a week, 6 hours a day, the claimant’s ability to stand and/or walk in a 6-hour workday could be addressed in the narrative portion of the RFC.) (For determination of capacity for PRW, see DI 25005.001.).
REMINDER: Inability to sustain a 40-hour workweek is an RFC finding. The adjudicator must use that RFC finding to complete the sequential evaluation process. If the claimant’s past relevant part-time work is within his or her RFC, deny the case at step 4 of the sequential evaluation process. If the claimant cannot do PRW, proceed to step 5. An inability to sustain a 40-hour work week at step 5 would result in a significantly eroded occupational base at all exertional levels. (For information on the sequential evaluation process, see DI 24001.015B.)