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The Affect Drug and Alcohol Usage has on a Social Security Disability Case

April 2, 2013 by The Sawaya Law Firm

Written by Kristina Vasold on behalf of Michael Sawaya

When a person applies for Social Security Disability benefits and there is evidence that this person uses or has used drugs or alcohol during the period they are claiming disability, the adjudicator has to analyze the case a little differently.

There was recently a new Social Security Ruling on this issue, SSR 13-2p. If the adjudicator finds that there is a Substance Use Disorder established by an “acceptable medical source” and the adjudicator determines that the claimant is disabled considering all of the impairments including the Substance Use Disorder, the adjudicator must determine the claimant’s restrictions and limitations first with the Substance Use Disorder as well as the other impairments and then determine the claimant’s restrictions and limitations in the absence of drugs and alcohol. If the restrictions and limitations in absence of drugs and alcohol would find the claimant disabled, then the claimant would win and be found disabled. If the adjudicator finds that if the claimant was not using drugs or alcohol the restrictions and limitations would not result in being disabled then the claimant would lose and be found not disabled.

In a mental health case, if the adjudicator is unable to determine if there would be a difference in the restrictions and limitations in the absence of alcohol or drugs then the case should go in the claimant’s favor and he/she would be found disabled. This does not apply to case that are based on physical impairments though. A period of abstinence is not necessary, but can help in assessing whether the claimant’s restrictions and limitations change when drugs or alcohol are not involved. A treating doctor’s opinion on the affect that drugs or alcohol have on the claimant’s functioning can be very helpful in this situation. If the drug and alcohol usage is not significant and not diagnosed by a doctor, then these additional steps should not apply.

If you’ve got a Social Security Disability claim, call The Sawaya Law Firm at 303-839-1650 for a free consultation. We are Denver’s personal injury law firm. With over 40 years of experience and a compassionate team prepared to listen to your story, The Sawaya Law Firm is here to help. Contact us anytime.

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