16. How does DES decide if my condition affects my ability to do basic work activities (Step 1)?

The first step is for DES to determine if you have any impairment that affects your ability to do basic work activities. Some impairments may have no impact on work, such as loss of sight in one eye.

"Basic work activities" are activities that you have to do in most jobs like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, understanding and following simple instructions. 106 C.M.R. § 703.193(A)(5).

DES looks for medical verification to show that there is at least a "nominal" (more than small) effect on your ability to do at least one of these kinds of activities and that your condition will last at least 60 days. 106 C.M.R. § 703.193(A)(1). DES calls this an assessment of Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). A broken toe is an example of an impairment that generally does not affect your ability to work, whereas a ruptured disc would.

Your ability to do basic work activities is based on the information that your doctor wrote on your medical report, any attached documents and the information you provided on the Disability Supplement. DES can probe further if your doctor's conclusions are not supported by the evidence or are contradicted by other information, such as the information you wrote on your Disability Supplement. 106 C.M.R. § 703.191(H)(3).

Example: If your doctor wrote that you could walk for only one hour a day, but you wrote that you went for long walks every day, DES may question your doctor's conclusions.

Advocacy Reminder:
  • DES should consider symptoms such as pain and the effects of medication when deciding your functional capacity. For example, if you have severe back pain, this pain may prevent you from sitting for long time periods.