Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are there some Disability Attorneys who do not gather RFC forms?

Believe it or not, there are some disability representatives who do not make the attempt to gather an RFC, or residual functional capacity form, for their client's cases prior to a disability hearing.

I recall visiting a forum in which one of the members was a former ALJ (administrative law judge) who stated that it was not unusual for some (non-recommended) reps to --

A) show up without having read the claimant's file beforehand.

B) show up without having obtained the necessary updates on medical records.


C) show up without having obtained an RFC form from a claimant's doctor to support the case.

Now, I will state that it isn't always possible to obtain a medical source statement (a.k.a. RFC form) from a claimant's treating physician or psychiatrist. In the process of preparing a case for a disability hearing, I have found myself that, on occasion, it can be next to impossible to obtain one (the reasons why will be addressed in a later post). self-respecting disability lawyer or non-attorney representative will willingly bypass this very effective tool for winning a case...unless they are, for lack of better words, incompetent.

Incompetent is a strong word. But let me explain how powerful an RFC form can be. While medical records will address a claimant's diagnosis and, in a limited sense, the prognosis, an RFC form will provide a disability judge what he or she really needs: a detailed description of a disability claimant's remaining function, and current physical or mental limitations. By comparison, only on rare occasions will a doctor's office notes or a hospital's records (including discharge summaries) ever provide this level of detail regarding functionality. Which is unfortunate, because the SSD program and SSI program rely completely on a claimant's residual function in order to determine --

A) whether or not they can return to their past work


B) whether or not they can perform some type of other work.

RFC forms can, as mentioned, be difficult to obtain from doctors. Many simply do not want to take the 20 minutes required to review a patient's file and then complete a form (which is very often just a check-off form, as is the one that is freely availabe on at the bottom of the homepage).

But, even so, since RFC forms can easily make the difference between losing or winning disability benefits, a disability representative who does not make the attempt to gather one for his or her client's case is certainly providing less-than-optimal representation.

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