Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a safety net for disabled individuals who can no longer work based on a long-term medical condition. Often, a medical condition is caused by an individual’s dependency on drugs or is the result of damages caused by past drug use. The role drug dependency plays in causing a medical condition is extremely important to the Social Security Administration’s decision on eligibility for SSDI benefits.
If you believe you qualify for SSDI benefits and are or have been dependent on drugs, Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, offers judgment-free representation in applying for and appealing Social Security determinations in El Paso, Texas.
What Are SSDI Benefits?
The SSDI program requires that an individual has worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years. The SSDI program does not apply to individuals that have never worked and paid Social Security taxes or have done so but for less than 10 years. SSDI payments are based on the amount an individual pays into the system while working and paying Social Security taxes.
What Is a Disability?
To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, an individual must prove he or she has a disability. The Social Security Administration defines a disability as a severe, long-term medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death. Disabilities take many forms, including physical impairments, such as paralysis or loss of limbs, neurological disorders such as seizures and epilepsy, and mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia.
Does Drug Dependency Qualify as a Disability?
Generally, the Social Security Administration does not consider drug dependency, by itself, a disability. However, long-term damages to the body caused by drug dependency may by themselves be disabling conditions. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of diseases or conditions generally considered to be disabilities. Some of these diseases or conditions may result from long-term drug use. These conditions include:
- Brain damage
- Liver damage
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Anxiety disorder or
- Personality disorder
So while drug dependency is not a disability on its own, an applicant may still be eligible for SSDI benefits if ongoing or past drug use has caused other long-term medical conditions recognized as a disability.
Does Ongoing Drug Use Make Me Ineligible for SSDI?
Again, there is no easy answer to this question. If an applicant admits to ongoing drug use in an application, the Social Security Administration will perform a drug addiction analysis to determine whether the medical conditions experienced would continue were the applicant to stop using drugs.
In considering drug and alcohol use in an eligibility determination, the Social Security Administration takes stock of an applicant’s physical and/or mental limitations. If a physical and/or mental limitation would no longer be disabling if an applicant stopped using drugs or alcohol, the Social Security Administration will likely find an applicant is ineligible for disability benefits. As an example, if seizures are caused by drug use and stopping drug use ends seizures, then it is unlikely the seizures are a disabling condition on their own.
However, if physical and/or mental limitations would continue to be disabling if an applicant stopped using drugs or alcohol, drug or alcohol use will not impact eligibility. For instance, forgoing drug use is unlikely to end the disabling condition of a person who has lost an arm or a leg.
If I Disclose Drug Dependency, Will I Have to go to Rehab?
In the situation that the Social Security Administration determines drug or alcohol abuse is a contributing factor to an applicant’s disability, the applicant may still be eligible for SSDI benefits if he or she participates in approved drug or alcohol treatment programs. An applicant is generally not expected to pay for the cost of completing an approved treatment program. If the applicant fails to comply with treatment requirements, benefits may be suspended.
If I’m in Rehab, Who Will Receive my Disability Payments?
If an applicant is approved for disability payments but is in an approved rehabilitation or treatment facility, the Social Security Administration will deliver payments to someone called a representative payee. A representative payee is a trusted person or organization who will receive benefits on an applicant’s behalf and manage the funds appropriately. A representative payee may be a family member or trusted friend or another organization that is responsible for managing the applicant’s finances.
Consult with an El Paso Social Security Disability Attorney
Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits can improve the quality of life for those suffering from a long-term disability. However, many people who use drugs or alcohol incorrectly believe they are ineligible for Social Security benefits because of their dependency. Even if your disability is caused by drug or alcohol use, Social Security may provide benefits that assist in getting treatment. If you believe you are disabled because of drug dependency or past drug use, contact Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law to discuss your SSDI application or appeal.