Addiction and Social Security Disability

Unfortunately, addiction has become a problem in society and the Social Security Administration considers addiction problems in its evaluation of someone’s disability claim. In general, whether its drug or alcohol addiction, the addiction doesn’t in and of itself qualify one for benefits.  On the other hand, someone struggling with an addiction does not automatically get rejected either.

Obviously, when one struggles with addiction, that individual can potentially lose his/her job or at the very least, have trouble performing that job in an acceptable way. So addiction and the inability to work often go hand-in-hand.

Consequently, one of the questions considered is “would this individual be capable of work if they were able to overcome the addiction?”  That is often a difficult question to answer.  But if the addiction-related work impairments seem “caused” by the addiction, benefits will be denied.

On the other hand, addiction may be the underlying cause of a serious medical problem.  Medical conditions such as liver damage, brain damage, seizures, depression, and others, may have been caused by long-term addiction.  When that happens, instead of focusing on the fact that addiction contributed to the condition, the Administration will follow its own rules as it relates to evaluating the liver damage, brain damage, etc. In other words, the medical conditions and limitations become the focus of the Administration’s review instead of the addiction. Then the determination is made without regard to the addiction factor.  So the impact of addiction on the disability evaluation will be a case-by-case decision.

Michael A. LeBoeuf, Associate Attorney, Law Offices of Peter J. Lemoine

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