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Substance abuse and your Social Security claim

Though you may have many medical impairments attributing to your claim for disability benefits, record of drug and/or alcohol abuse will be addressed. The Administration must make a determination as to whether your substance abuse is a contributing factor to your disability.

In order to prove that your medical conditions would still exist, regardless of any substance abuse, there needs to be a period in which your conditions were still present and debilitating when you were sober. Without this period of sobriety, proving your conditions would keep your from working is very challenging.

Another thing to consider, is whether or not your condition would be less impairing if you were not abusing substances. Even if your representative can prove that your medical conditions exist when you are sober, are they limiting enough in order for you to be found disabled?

Social Security Regulation 13-2p gives three basic examples of when substance abuse is not material to the determination of a disability. The examples are:

  1. The claimant has a medical condition independent from the abuse; such as a degenerative neurological disease or a hereditary kidney disease,
  2. The claimant acquired a separate disabling impairment while using a substance. For
  3. The claimant’s substance abuse medically caused the other disabling impairment(s) but the other impairment(s) is irreversible or could not improve to the point of non-disability in the absence of substance abuse.

Many years ago you could be approved disability benefits for alcoholism, however; the law has since changed and without existence of debilitating medical conditions in the absence of substance abuse, you will not be found disabled under Social Security law. However; the period of sobriety is not an easy feat. Different substances have longer residual effects than others. Some effects from substance abuse will subside within weeks while others take months, therefore; there is no set period of time in which the Administration considers to be a “period of sobriety.”

The Administration is instructed not to allow substance abuse to lower the credibility of a claimant compared to those claimants without substance abuse, however; credibility will come into question often in claims involving substance abuse. Therefore; preparing yourself for questions regarding your substance abuse will help alleviate this issue.

Claims with substance abuse can be difficult for both adjudicators and representatives alike, however; the most important thing is that you seek professional help. If you have questions regarding substance abuse in your claim you should contact our office at 1-877-526-3457 or you can read more on Social Security Regulation 13-2p by visiting www.ssa.gov.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law
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