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Can Returning to School Affect a Social Security Disability Claim?

When it comes to issues regarding a Social Security Disability claim and what one should or should not do, or what steps one should or should not take, it's increasingly difficult to offer an answer that would apply to everyone. Social Security Disability claims are, without a doubt, not a 'one-size-fits-all' situation. The subject of returning to school (i.e. college, trade school, or a certification program) is one we hear often, but also one that applies differently to different individuals in different situations. When investigating a disability claim, the Social Security Administration is trying to understand whether or not an individual is capable of working. The main issues an individual applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits would run into are two-fold: 1.) Would an alleged disability interfere with an individual's ability to attend classes, and 2.) Would a course-load, or class work, be similar in time requirements and exertion as a full-time job? For example, if an individual suffers from a social anxiety disorder, the Social Security Administration might wonder how they would be able to interact, in a social manner, with peers in a classroom--especially if they are unable to do so in a work environment. The alternative view to this example, however, are certain accommodations an individual may have, or take, in order to avoid situations that would trigger their disability, such as online courses that do not require direct interaction with classmates. Often times, course schedules have the ability to command a great deal of time and attention, especially if an individual is attending classes full-time. The amount of time spent not only in class, but also in any additional labs, study sessions, and work required outside of the course, has the potential to add up. In the end, attending school may appear as time consuming and as difficult as participating in gainful employment. On the other hand, not every individual returns to school full-time. And, not all full-time students carry schedules that are as physically or mentally taxing as full-time employment. The best thing one can do in this situation is to be aware that it may raise additional questions. Additionally, documentation for any special accommodations will only prove to be helpful in the end. If you're a client and you have any questions or concerns about returning to school and its impact on your claim, feel free to let us know!

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