Social Security disability and higher education aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. When you're disabled for the purposes of receiving Supplemental Security Income, it means that you have a medical disorder that will last at least one year and that prevents you from working. However, just because you're disabled doesn't necessarily mean that you can't go to school. Furthermore, the Social Security Administration may even give you specialized treatment or allowances if you do choose to go to school when you're disabled.
Become disabled. To meet the program's definition of a disability, you must have a condition that will last at least one year and prevent you from doing any more than a minimal amount of work -- called substantial gainful activity. To determine whether or not you are disabled, the Social Security Administration and your state disability office will review your work and medical history.
Qualify for disability. To qualify, you will need to meet two tests in addition to being disabled. Under the recent work test, you need at least 1.5 years worth of working time during the three years before you were disabled, assuming that you're younger than 24. You also need to have worked for a total of at least 1.5 years to meet the "duration of work" test, assuming that you're under 28.
Apply for disability. You can start the application process online at the Social Security Administration's website, although you will also have to have either an in-person or telephone meeting. You will also have to submit documentation for your claim. According to the Social Security Administration, it can take three to five months to review your claim. If it is approved, you will receive benefits starting from the sixth month after you first became disabled.
Receive disability benefits.
Attend college, if your disability allows it. For instance, if you are physically handicapped and can no longer work because of it, but you can get into and out of handicapped-accessible buses to and from school and access classrooms, your disability would allow you to attend school. On the other hand, if you have a brain injury that prevents you from remembering material, it may be harder to justify going to school. If you are attending school full time and under 22, you may be able to earn up to $1,730 per month without it affecting your disability payments.
- The rules surrounding disability eligibility and your ability to attend school can be complicated, so you may want to consider getting help from an attorney with expertise in disability law.