Health In The Workplace: What To Do If A Disability Renders You Unable To Work?

by Lilly on November 21, 2013

Life is strange. Just when you’re really getting into something or really enjoying your life, it throws you a curveball. Think of it as a challenge. A lesson to be learned. Those lessons and challenges come in every shape and form, and some are not that nice.  In fact, they can be downright horrible. So if worst comes to worst and you suffer a disability which renders you unable to work, what do you do?

Filing a disabiltiy claim - Shutterstock Filing a disabiltiy claim – Shutterstock

After suffering a major setback like this it can be daunting to get out of bed in the morning, let alone garner the resources to begin the process of filing a disability claim. It’s very important, however, that you do, because it will bring you peace of mind and allow you to continue with your life rather than dwell on what’s happened to you. The benefit of filing a disability claim is that you’ll have more security in your future and be able to focus on rehabilitation or dealing with what’s happened in your life.

The process can be pretty confusing during this overwhelming time, especially with all the terminology flying around: SSA, DDS and most importantly RFC. So, let’s clarify it a bit.

Filing A Disability Claim: The Process

The first thing you need to know about your disability claim is that I goes through an organization called the SSA (Social Security Administration) and state agencies called DDSs (Disability Determination Services) which are federally funded. The process goes off like this:

  • You fill in forms online, in person or over the phone – these will ask for the nature of your disability
  • After this, the field offices for the SSA send these forms to the DDS
  • The DDS will then follow up to ensure that the claimant is disabled or blind by law, and is therefore unfit to continue work
  • The DDS will arrange for a medical or consultative examination – your doctor is the preferred source for this
  • This is where the RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) comes in! It’s an important part of the claim process, because it assesses your ability to continue working or not – both physically and mentally
  • After this, the DDS returns the claim (if the claimant is disabled) to the SSA which calculates the benefits and starts paying them out.

But what is the RFC? And why is it so important?

Explaining Residual Functional Capacity: What’s The Deal?

Explaining residual functional capacity is actually easier than you might think. It’s basically an evaluation of what you can do after you’ve suffered your disability. It’s an important part of the disability claim process because it helps the SSA measure:

  • The amount of work-like activities you can handle: sitting, standing, walking, carrying, pushing etc.
  • How well you can see, hear and speak
  • If you can do other activities which put more strain on your body: reaching up, kneeling, crawling etc.
  • How well you can understand concepts and communicate
  • How well you pay attention
  • How well you handle the environment around you and cope with any changes in it

In order for the SSA to approve your claim and send it to the DDS, your RFC (which can be performed by your medical practitioner) must show that you are unable to do the work you were involved in before your disability.

So What’s Next?

If your claim goes through and you’re unable to continue work, what’s next for you? Well, you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself, but you should strive to learn all the little things you’ll need for the future. Everyday tasks can be challenging at first. Never forget that word: challenging. A problem is something you need a solution for whereas a challenge is something you can face and conquer. Live up to your challenges. Go slow. Believe in yourself. And if you’re able to work on recovery with a physiotherapist or psychologist, go for it!



I'm Lilly Sheperd, an occasional guest-blogger and a full time freelance communication consultant. When not blogging, I like to travel and read a lot, especially about education and law.

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