Residual Functional Capacity Assessment for Cystic Fibrosis
If your cystic fibrosis is not severe enough to meet or equal a listing at Step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the Social Security Administration will need to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC) to decide whether you are disabled at Step 4 and Step 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. RFC is a claimant’s ability to perform work-related activities. In other words, it is what you can still do despite your limitations. An RFC for physical impairments is expressed in terms of whether the Social Security Administration believes you can do heavy, medium, light, or sedentary work in spite of your impairments. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do.
Claimants with cystic fibrosis are likely to have more limitations than other people with the same severity of chronic lung disease, because of the time they may have to spend in pulmonary hygiene like postural drainage, inhalation of nebulized drugs, receiving treatment for digestive problems resulting in malnutrition, or being treated for complications such as exacerbations of pneumonia.
Many claimants with cystic fibrosis qualify at listing-level severity when they apply for disability. Most of those who do not qualify under the listing are limited to light or even sedentary work. A claimant would need to have a very early and mild form of the disease (not likely statistically) to justify medium or heavy work and it is almost inconceivable that anyone with cystic fibrosis would be justifiably rated as “not severe.”