When I got too sick to continue working, I signed up for grad school online. I did it for the financial aid money. I am a single mother and I needed it to survive and feed my kids.
I received enough financial aid money to pay all my tuition and still have money left over to pay for our rent, food, and living expenses.
I was not really well enough to handle school, but I did the best I could with it. I took unscheduled classes online.
I have a lot of fatigue and cognitive problems. Some of my papers were not coherent or readable and some of my grades were not very good and some things I turned in late. But I did manage to at least pass my classes. I studied writing and poetry so when I couldn’t think clearly, my poems just came out “arty.”
My condition was getting worse and I was having a real struggle to stay in school, but I was very close to graduating, just two classes away, so I was considering withdrawing but not sure what to do.
After my disability got denied, I met with a disability lawyer. He told me that if I got a graduate degree while applying for disability, I would definitely get denied and there was pretty much no hope I would ever be approved.
I was really too sick to continue being in school and after talking to the lawyer, I knew withdrawing was the right decision. I contacted the school and told them I had to leave for medical reasons. The school sent me an email that I was taking a medical withdrawal.
Getting a medical withdrawal was easy, but the financial aid part was complicated. They had already given me financial aid and when I withdrew, they wanted it back. I had to make a special request and prove it was a medical necessity. I sent letters from my doctor and filled out forms. It worked out in the end.
For my Social Security disability application, I wrote down that I took a medical withdrawal from school. I printed out a copy and sent them a copy of the official letter from the school stating that I had a medical withdrawal.
I also collected all my medical records and saw on my medical records that there was a place at the bottom that repeated my personal information on every record. So every record said I was in graduate school. I asked my doctor to correct that and then I collected copies of my records to make sure it was now accurate.
I was approved for disability two months later. To be clear: The medical withdrawal letter is only one of the things I sent Social Security. I do not think that is the reason I got approved. But I do think it helped make my records more accurate.
Social Security changed my onset date and said that I just became disabled recently. That is why I didn’t get backpay. I don’t know if they did this because I was in school.
I have not had to pay back any of the financial aid or student loans because I am poor. I signed up for income-based repayment and I owe $0 per month.