Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Can an adult who has been to college but hasn't worked for a long time get Disability Benefits?

Yes, a person's level of education does have some potential influence on the outcome of a disability claim (for Social security disability or SSI benefits). But the impact of one's level of education is not as great as some might think. Education really only becomes a factor in the sequential evaluation process and this is at the stage where:

A) The adjudicator (a disability examiner or a disability judge) has already determined that the claimant is not capable of returning to their past work and

B) The adjudicator is trying to determine whether or not the claimant has the ability--based on their limitations, their age, their work skills, and their education--to do some type of other work.

However, even when educational level becomes a factor, the highest level of educational attaintment that is factored into the process by the social security administration is high school graduation.

The grid rules themselves, which direct a decision of "disabled" or "not disabled" (based on factors mentioned in the preceding paragraph) will use the phrase High school graduate or more. There is no specific reference to post-secondary educational attainment, nor is such a level of educational attainment given any weight in the disability evaluation process.

Can an adult who has been to college get disability benefits? Since the social security administration does not really differentiate between high school graduation and college, we can say that having taken college coursework will not present any additional roadblocks to qualifying for disability benefits.

Whether or not one qualifies for disability benefits will largely depend on their ability (or lack thereof) to re-enter the workforce, either performing some type of work that they have done previously (relevant past work) or peforming some type of other work that takes into consideration their level of functioning, skills, and how old they are.

Getting approved for disability relies on the ability of the claimant (and/or their disability lawyer) to prove that there is at least one mental or physical or impairment that is severe enough that it may prevent the claimant from engaging in substantial and gainful work activity for at least one full year.

Proving this level of severity is demonstrated in two ways:

A) By what the medical records have to say about the claimant's mental or physical condition and

B) By whether or not the claimant has been able to engage in work activity to the level where they could earn a substantial and gainful income.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved

    FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions

    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing an application for disability
    Filing for disability and medical conditions that qualify
    How long to get disability benefits when you apply
    Social Security Disability application denied
    Winning disability benefits, how to win
    Winning disability for a mental condition
    Social Security Disability Back pay, SSD, SSI
    Eligible for Social Security Disability SSI
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in California
    Will I qualify for disability Benefits in California?
    How long does it take to get disability in California?