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Substance Abuse, Disability and Eligibility


Until the late '90s, disability claims based solely on drug and alcohol abuse could typically be awarded benefits. The policy was generally observed by Social Security Administration officials across the country.

But since the early 2000s, disability claims based solely on drug and alcohol abuse have been routinely denied.

Many now believe that a disability claim where drug and alcohol abuse is a "material" factor cannot be awarded benefits. But that, in fact, is not true.

In cases where drug and alcohol abuse may a contributing factor of the disabling condition, there are specific concerns the Social Security Administration considers in awarding benefits. And since 2013, there have been 6 points of consideration that factor heavily in these cases:

  1. Is substance abuse involved in the case? If the claimant has a documented history of substance abuse, it is likely that the case will automatically proceed to the next step in the approval process.
  2. Do the claimant's impairments, including substance abuse, qualify him as "disabled?"? If the claimant's condition does not meet Social Security's definition of disability (including the claimant's substance abuse), their disability case will be denied. If the claimant is, indeed, found to be disabled, their case will proceed to the next step in the process.
  3. Is substance abuse the only impairment? If so, the claim will be denied. Alcoholism and drug addiction no longer form the sole basis for a successful disability claim.
  4. Are the claimant's non-substance abuse impairments disabling by themselves, or are they disabling because of the substance abuse? If a claimant's condition leaves them unable to work solely because they are using drugs or alcohol, substance abuse will be found "material" and their case will likely be denied.
  5. Does substance abuse affect or cause the applicant's medical impairments? If the answer is "no," substance abuse is not material to the case.
  6. Would the impairments leave the claimant able to work in the absence of substance abuse? Typically the decision to award or deny hinge on answering this question.

When filing Social Security disability claim, it's important to consider these elements. There are many factors that affect a disability claim and you should always consult a practiced disability attorney.

Of course, if your injury or disability is the result of the action or neglect of others, you should consult with personal injury attorneys like those at Panio Law Offices.

We can help sort out the issues, demonstrate liability, document treatment and fight for damages. If you have questions about a personal injury case, call (708) 928-8680.

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