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Can I Be Denied Disability Benefits for Using Drugs or Alcohol?

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Social Security is how your benefits can be affected by the use of drugs and alcohol. It is entirely possible that you will receive disability benefits even if you suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction, although the requirements are often very stringent.

If you believe you deserve disability benefits but are worried your history of drug or alcohol abuse might affect the final decision, it can be helpful to learn how Social Security takes substance abuse into consideration during the application process. Learn how drugs and alcohol can influence Social Security benefits and your legal options after you have been denied disability benefits.

Questions Social Security Asks

The primary factor that Social Security will consider whether or not you would still be disabled without drug addiction or alcoholism (DAA). If DAA is the main cause of your disability, then you claim will be automatically denied. If, however, DAA is a contributing factor but not the primary cause, your case will receive further examination.

For cases involving drugs or alcohol, Social Security asks six questions to determine the status of your benefits:

  • Are drugs and alcohol involved in the case?
  • Does your condition, including DAA, make you legally disabled?
  • Is DAA the only cause of your condition?
  • Do your impairments cause you to be disabled on their own, or are they exacerbated by DAA?
  • Does DAA contribute to your condition or cause it in any way?
  • If you took away DAA, would you still be disabled and unable to work?

After thoroughly examining all of these questions, Social Security will then determine whether DAA is a factor in your case and if you should receive benefits.

What a DAA Determination Looks Like

Because cases involving DAA can be complicated, it can be useful to look at an example of a typical determination:

Jane Doe is a chronic alcoholic who has been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver but continues to drink. She applies for disability benefits on the basis of her cirrhosis. First, Jane’s case worker would examine both Jane’s DAA and her resulting condition, cirrhosis, to determine her level of disability. If the caseworker finds that Jane would still be disabled even if she stops drinking, then Jane will be approved for benefits.

As you can see, it is possible to receive Social Security benefits if you are suffering from DAA, provided that your disability will not go away when you remove substance abuse from the equation.

How Do Mental Impairments Affect a DAA?

If you suffer from DAA and a mental condition, such as anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to gauge whether your mental affliction would lessen in the absence of DAA. In these circumstances, it is important that you get the opinion of a psychologist or counselor, which can aid in the final determination of whether or not you will receive disability benefits.

Get Help When You’ve Been Denied Disability Benefits

Although the issue is complicated, as we have seen, to be awarded disability benefits even if you use drugs or alcohol. If, however, Social Security denies your claim based on your drug or alcohol use, then you deserve legal help to get the support you need. After you’ve been denied disability benefits, consult an attorney from The Law Office of Dr. Bill LaTour for help.

You deserve the disability benefits you need to live your life effectively, and our experienced, compassionate legal team is here to help with your case. Talk with one of our attorneys today and start fighting for your needed benefits.

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