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The Role of Substance Abuse in Your Disability Claim: Will it Affect Your Benefits?

Posted Jessica L. Kurtz on Jan 19, 2015 in Social Security Disability

Drug and alcohol abuse is tragic for both the individual suffering as well as their families. Watching a person experience the physical and emotional side effects of an addiction is both a sad and helpless time, and over the long term can often end in a slow and painful death.

While addiction is widely considered a disease, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) stance on drug abuse and alcoholism as a disability has wavered over the years. Addiction itself may have once been considered a disabling condition, but today, its definition has become more complicated when it comes to receiving disability benefits.

Six Steps You Will Need to Meet to Qualify for Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration uses a six-step process in determining your disability coupled with drug abuse and alcoholism (DAA). To qualify for disability benefits based on your abuse or addiction, you will need to successfully meet each step:

  1. Is DAA involved in your application? Both past and current substance abuse problems are considered, and if you have suffered or continue to suffer from drug or alcohol abuse, you will move on to the second step.
  2. Do your impairments, including your DAA, qualify you as disabled? If you are not considered disabled, it goes without saying that you would not qualify for disability benefits through the SSA. If you are considered disabled, you move to the third step.
  3. Is drug abuse or alcoholism your only impairment? If you are attempting to use substance abuse or addiction as your sole disabling condition, you will not qualify for disability. If, however, you have a physical or mental condition in addition to DAA, your case is moved on to the next step.
  4. Are your non-DAA impairments disabling on their own, or are they disabling due to your DAA? If your impairments are only disabling because of your substance abuse, your case will likely be denied.
  5. Does your DAA affect or cause your impairments? If your DAA has no effect on your impairments, it will not factor into the SSA’s decision.
  6. Would your impairments be considered non-disabling if you did not currently suffer from DAA? A real kicker, the sixth step is probably the most important one of the bunch. If you stopped drinking or using drugs completely today, would you still be disabled?

 

Clearly, applications involving DAA have a lot of grey area. Don’t leave your future to chance—contact our Harrisburg Social Security Disability law firm today to learn how to improve your case! Just click on the live chat link to get started now, or fill out our online contact form to be connected with one of our experienced attorneys.