Does a College Degree Affect My Chances of Approval?

If you are a college graduate, you may be wondering if your education will have a negative effect on your ability to get Social Security Disability benefits. The answer is: Possibly.

When the Social Security Administration evaluates your disability application, it considers your education in addition to your age and work experience. Your schooling dictates the type of job you can qualify for as well as what opportunities are available. Applicants with a more limited educational background tend to have fewer employment opportunities than someone with a university degree.

This doesn’t mean that a university graduate won’t receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but they have a more difficult time proving ‘unemployability’ than someone with a high school diploma whose work experience has been confined to manual labor.

Does a college degree affect my claim?

The Social Security Assessment Process

Disability claims reviewers want to determine whether or not you are able to and earn at least $1,130 per month, which is generally considered the minimum requirement for maintaining gainful employment. They also want to know if there are any medical factors that prevent you from getting a job in a field that matches your education or vocational training and previous work experience.

If you have only received vocational training (e.g. construction work, electrician, plumber), your disability prevents you from doing sustained physical work, and your disability prevents you from being retrained for other occupations, you stand a greater chance of being approved for Social Security disability benefits.

Where a College Degree May Negatively Affect Your Claim

If, on the other hand, you have a Master’s Degree, have been accustomed to office jobs, and have a disability that limits your physical mobility, there is always the chance that you could find a sedentary job that requires little exertion. The SSA may conclude that your financial need is less urgent and deny your claim on the grounds that there is other work you can do.

Getting in Contact With a Social Security Disability Attorney

Education is only part of the process, however. The SSA also refers to your age and work history to determine whether or not you have the ability to remain gainfully employed in a competitive workforce. For example, disability applicants under the age of 50 who have an extensive education and traditionally worked at sedentary jobs may be denied benefits on the basis of the assumption that they can easily be retrained (unless their disability is mental in scope). An older applicant who dropped out of high school and has a physical impairment will be more limited in their employment prospects and therefore be more likely to receive disability benefits.

If you are disabled and concerned about your chances of approval due to a college degree or other evidence of advanced education, contact a Social Security disability attorney about your concerns. If you are mentally or physically incapable of maintaining gainful employment, an attorney will help you present your case in a way that gives you a better chance of getting the disability benefits that you need.

Additional Resources