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Substance Abuse and SSDI Benefits

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Those who are primarily disabled by substance abuse cannot obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits for the disability caused by substance abuse. However, if you are disabled by a medical condition on top of an alcohol or drug addiction, you may still be able to obtain SSDI or SSI for the primary disability that isn’t substance abuse. For example, if you become paralyzed and can no longer work, you may still be eligible for SSDI or SSI in spite of your substance abuse because the paralysis stops you from working irrespective of your substance abuse. If you’re concerned about substance abuse and SSDI benefits, an experienced Chicago Social Security attorney can answer your questions about the claims process.

Substance Abuse and SSDI Benefits

Often drug or alcohol addiction is disabling. However, as stated above, if your substance abuse substantially contributes to your disabling condition, you won’t be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

History of Substance Abuse

You can claim and obtain SSDI benefits if you meet the definition of disability. You must not be able to engage in a substantial gainful activity because of a severe medically determinable impairment, either physical or mental, that is expected to last at least a year or resolve in death. Abusing drugs or alcohol for years can cause significant impairments, but you can’t get SSDI benefits solely on an addiction diagnosis. You may be able to obtain SSDI benefits, however, if you have a different physical or mental disability that is generated by substance abuse or associated with it.

A history of substance abuse won’t necessarily keep you from getting benefits either. For example, if you suffer from kidney and liver damage that keeps you from working, and the substance abuse caused that damage, the kidney and liver damage by themselves can allow you to get SSDI. However, you should be aware that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at whether your substance abuse has caused or added to your mental or physical disabilities. It’s understood that people with substance abuse problems may relapse, and a relapse doesn’t necessarily destroy your case.

Rather, the SSA will look at whether your medical conditions are disabling regardless of the effects of substance abuse. The policy of the SSA is that 30 days of sobriety is enough to evaluate the impact of substance abuse on medical or psychiatric conditions. If you are working to overcome a substance abuse problem, you are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt by the administrators and judges at the SSA. A seasoned SSDI lawyer can help you present your claims and prepare for any hearings.

Psychiatric Disabilities

The analysis is more complicated however, if your disability is psychiatric rather than physical. Often substance abuse exacerbates psychiatric problems. It can be difficult to know whether the psychiatric impairment is inextricable from the substance abuse, or which one is causing the other. When there is a 30-day period of sobriety and documentation that serious psychiatric problems are disabling notwithstanding sobriety, it may be possible to argue that SSDI should be awarded.

Abusing Substances While Getting Benefits

The SSA may refer you to a substance abuse treatment program even if it approves your benefits application. It can mandate that you get a representative to receive your payments and oversee how your SSDI benefits are spent to ensure that government funds aren’t used to support substance abuse.

Consult a Skillful SSDI Attorney in Chicago

If you are concerned about substance abuse and SSDI benefits in Chicago, a dedicated SSDI attorney can answer your questions. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca, our lawyers can represent claimants with initial applications and appeals in Aurora, Rockford, Quincy, Springfield, and Champaign, as well as Kane County, Sangamon County, Winnebago County, Cook County, and Adams County. We will also look closely at the situation to determine whether other relief, such as damages in a personal injury lawsuit or workers’ compensation benefits should be pursued. Call us at 312-724-5846, or contact us online.