There is a rigid framework used in all SSDI and SSI cases. It is the same test, each and every time. There are 5 basic steps:

  1. Are you working and earning over the substantial gainful activity amount?
  2. Do you have at least one "severe" medically determinable impairment?
  3. Are your medically determinable impairments of the types listed in the Regulations as an "automatic" determination of disability?
  4. What is your residual functional capacity? and does it prevent you from doing your old job if any?
  5. Given your residual functional capacity, are there other jobs in the national economy you are capable of doing?

These seem like simple questions, but they are extremely nuanced and complicated. I know exactly what they mean, you probably don't.

When you apply for disability, SSA first refers the case to another agency to recommend an initial decision. Most initial applications are denied. But don't give up, if you keep fighting with help from someone experienced, most disabled people eventually win benefits. The key is to timely appeal and to get the help you need.