Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits can still be obtained despite issues involving alcoholism and drug addiction. The Senior Citizens Right to Work Act of 1996 changed the way claimants with a history of drug or alcohol abuse are considered for benefits. Ever since 1996, the key question is whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) would still find the claimant disabled despite the cessation of drug or alcohol use. The SSA evaluates which physical or mental limitations would remain after cessation and then whether the limitations would be disabling. If the ALJ, for instance, finds that when alcohol is removed that a claimant's mental impairments are not severe then benefits can and will be denied. If, for example, a claimant had severe limitations arising from a back injury that was disabling, then the ALJ cold find the alcoholism was not a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.
This is often a confusing area, especially when dealing with psychiatric impairments, such as bi-polar disorder, severe depression, and schizophrenia. The ALJ will need to determine what impairments exist independent of the substance abuse and what impairments are exacerbated by the substance abuse. Often, the use of drugs or alcohol is an attempt by the claimant to "self-medicate" his or her condition. These issues must all be explored with treating sources.
If you need more information about a personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), Social Security Disability or SSI matter, EEOICPA claim, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, and Deer Lodge.