Can I Qualify for Disability If I Struggle with Addiction? - Hensley Legal Group, PC

Can I Qualify for Disability If I Struggle with Addiction?

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Indiana lawmakers are looking into multiple ways to reduce the rate of smoking among Hoosiers. Last year, Richard Feldman, a physician and former health commissioner of Indiana, suggested that lowering the levels of highly-addictive nicotine in tobacco products could reduce the rate of youth smoking. This year, lawmakers are weighing the benefits of an increase in the state’s cigarette tax.

It’s no secret that quitting smoking is highly beneficial for both your health and your finances. A few specific health benefits include:

  • Breaking the cycle of addiction with new brain synapses
  • Developing sharper hearing, better vision, clearer skin, and a cleaner mouth
  • Reducing heart risks and likelihood of clots forming, and lowering cholesterol
  • Stopping lung damage, lowering cancer risk, and building strong muscles

Breaking the cycle takes time and hard work. Nicotine affects some people more than others, leading to addiction.

If you’re addicted to nicotine, can you still qualify for Social Security disability benefits? What if you suffer from another addiction? Let’s take a look at Social Security’s Evaluation of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DAA) to find out.

How Does Social Security Define DAA?

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines DAA as substance use disorders; “that is, Substance Dependence or Substance Abuse as defined in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. …. In general, the DSM defines Substance Use Disorders as maladaptive patterns of substance use that lead to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

There is one clear exception to DAA: nicotine disorders. Although nicotine may be the cause and very root of your substance addiction, a claim alone on the grounds of nicotine addiction would not progress far in the system.

What’s the SSA’s DAA Policy?

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If you’re struggling with substance abuse, you may still be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA’s DAA policy is fairly straightforward: If you would still meet the SSA’s definition of disability even if you stopped using drugs and/or alcohol, you’ll still be considered for disability benefits. If, however, your condition wouldn’t meet the SSA’s definition of disability if you stopped abusing drugs and/or alcohol, then the SSA will deny your claim.

The SSA recognizes two DAA-caused conditions that are permanent and therefore not disqualifying for applicants: Substance-Induced Persisting Dementia and Substance-Induced Persisting Amnestic Disorder. These conditions are caused by DAA and may have been prevented if the individual had stopped using drugs and/or alcohol, but because they are now permanent, the SSA still considers them as part of your disability.

How Does the SSA Determine If Someone Has DAA?

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The SSA abides strictly by its definition of DAA and only recognizes if someone has a medically determinable Substance Use Disorder. Their evaluation is the same as determining any other medical impairment:

  • Evaluating Evidence: As in any other case, evidence of medical treatment is crucial to your claim. However, if you’re struggling with a substance disorder, treatment is particularly necessary in order to determine whether or not you still meet the definition of disability if you successfully quit your addiction. The SSA may find you non-compliant if you disobey your doctor’s treatment plan to help you recover from addiction. If you’re non-compliant, your claim will likely be denied.
  • Receiving Objective Reports: Unfortunately, self-reporting that you have an addiction problem isn’t enough for the SSA to consider your addiction a verifiable Substance Use Disorder. They also won’t consider your substance use as a disorder if a friend or family member reports your addiction or if your addiction results in a crime, such as an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). Instead, they’ll need access to your medical records, laboratory findings, and other objective reports.
  • Considering Non-Medical Sources: Many individuals who suffer from addiction receive care from non-medical sources. The SSA will take any assistance from non-medical sources into account as they evaluate your claim. This includes evidence from social workers, caseworkers, rehabilitation specialists, and nurse practitioners. Evidence from non-medical sources can help provide a clearer picture of your addiction and establish credibility.

Hire a Muncie Disability Attorney

Along with seeking medical treatment for your addiction and disability, consider seeking legal representation for your Social Security disability claim. Our Muncie disability attorneys are ready to help with your claim. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online for your free consultation.

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