Monday, September 22, 2014

Will Enrolling in College Courses Affect Your Chances of Winning SSDI?

Recently, a client who has a pending Social Security Disability case asked me whether enrolling in college will hurt her chances of winning her case.  Although there isn't a specific prohibition against going back to school, it is very likely that her decision will affect her claim in a negative way.  Keep in mind that since there there aren't any specific rules in this area, the effect that going back to school will have varies greatly from case to case.
One of the things that Social Security pays the most attention to in your case are your daily activities. If you are engaging in a lot of activities in your daily life --particularly activities that are challenging--, Social Security will infer that you are able to function in a working environment.  For example, if you are taking care of children, doing yard work or cooking complex meals, Social Security will assume that you still have the capacity to do some kind of work.  Social Security might agree that you cannot work in a day care or, become landscaper or a cook but, will probably infer that you still have some residual capacity to do other jobs that are more simple.  Likewise, if you are taking tests, sitting in class, reading and writing papers, Social Security might infer that you can work as a clerk in an office or in a data entry job.
The effect that going to school has on an SSDI case varies greatly on the specific nature of the course work taken by the claimant or the beneficiary.  Is the person enrolled in full time or part time school? Are the classes in a classroom environment or online?  How complicated are the courses taken? And, most importantly, is the educational institution providing any kind of accommodation for the claimant?   
Remember that there is more to going to school that simply going to class.  Beware of the potential issues that might arise if you decide to go back to school and be ready to document any special circumstances why going back to school is not indicative that you can also function in a work environment.