When applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, it’s important to understand that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers various factors to determine your eligibility. One of these factors is your education. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the role your education history may play in determining your receiving disability benefits.

Five-Step Evaluation Process

To understand the role of education in the disability determination process, it’s helpful first to understand the SSA’s Five-Step Evaluation Process that each application for disability goes through. This process includes:

  1. Determining if the applicant is working.
  2. Assessing the severity of the medical condition.
  3. Comparing the medical condition(s) to those in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments.
  4. Evaluating the applicant’s ability to do past work.
  5. Considering the applicant’s age, education, work experience, and physical/mental condition, to assess if the applicant can perform other work.

As you can see, education prominently factors into the fifth step of this process.

Importance of Education in Determining Disability

Education is a critical factor in the disability determination process because it affects an individual’s ability to adjust to different types of work. The SSA considers an applicant’s education level when evaluating whether they can successfully adapt to other jobs that exist in meaningful numbers in the national economy.

How the SSA Evaluates Education

The SSA classifies education into four categories:

  1. Illiteracy: The inability to read or write in any language.
  2. Marginal Education: Completion of 6th grade or less.
  3. Limited Education: Completion of 7th through 11th grade.
  4. High school Education and above Completion of 12th grade and beyond, which may include specialized job training, trade or vocational school, or university education.

The Impact of Education on Disability Determination

The SSA believes that those with more education are more likely to be able to transition to new types of work, even with a disability. For example, they assume individuals with a high school education or higher to be able to adapt to sedentary work, which requires more mental than physical capabilities.

On the other hand, an individual with ‘marginal’ or ‘limited’ education may be less likely to adjust to new types of work, especially if their past labor was unskilled and they are over a certain age. In such cases, the SSA may be more likely to find that individual disabled.

The SSA also considers the relevance of your education to the work you can no longer do, and any skills you may have that could transfer to other jobs. For instance, if you have education or training that provides skills you can use in other employment, the SSA may declare you as not disabled, even if you can’t do your past work.

Getting Help with Your Disability Claim

Understanding how your education affects your SSD claim is essential, but navigating this process can be challenging. That’s where a disability attorney comes in. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand how the SSA will view your education level and can present your case in a way that maximizes your chances of approval.

A disability attorney can also help you gather and present evidence to support your claim, guide you through the appeals process if the SSA denies your application, and represent you at your disability hearing.

Brock and Stout’s disability attorneys have over 25 years of experience helping clients through the disability process. Contact us for a free evaluation of your disability claim to see if we can help you get the benefits you need.