The Bipolar Blog has a great series of posts on applying for Social Security benefits. The first article presents this situation:
My wife feels disabled. She used to teach junior high school Spanish full time for over $60,000 per year. She can no longer work as a full-time teacher, because the stress triggers mania. Believe me, she tried several times to return to teaching, and each time she experienced a serious breakdown.
She did receive some disability payments from the Social Security Administration for several months when she was completely unable to work. Now she’s working as a teaching assistant earning about $15,000 per year.
She can’t do the job she wants to do and was trained to do. She no longer has the same earning potential. That makes her feel disabled, but that’s not how the Social Security Administration sees it.
The article goes through the Social Security disability analysis and is a great review of how disability cases are evaluated.