Published on: August 9, 2016
Many people suffer from an addiction of some sort—exercise, caffeine, food etc. Too much of something is rarely healthy for anyone.
While the majority of drug addictions develop from social experimentation, many people can develop an addiction to substances, such as painkillers that were prescribed by a licensed physician to treat their pain.
According to drugfree.org, only 6 short years ago 23.5 million Americans suffered from a drug or alcohol addiction.
The aftermath and long term effects of any substance addiction can be crippling and financially and emotionally draining.
Substance Addiction Law and Disability Changes
Before 1996, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would consider substance addiction to be a disability. However, in 1996, Congress modified and passed the Contract with America Advancement Act—Public Law (P.L.) 104-121 which terminated SSI and SSDI benefits awarded to those whose primary impairment was substance addiction.
On the other hand, this legislation is reflective of various provisions.
Currently, Public Law 104-121 continues to allow the following:
“... Individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may continue to qualify for benefits based on another disabling condition(s) (such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), heart disease, schizophrenia, and so forth).”
In other words, the Social Security Administration will not approve you for disability benefits on the sole basis of you suffering from substance addiction alone since it is not considered a disabling medical condition. In legal terms, if the finding of substance addition is MATERIAL to the finidng of disability, benefits are not awarded.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has specific requirements applicants must meet in order to be considered eligible for disability benefits, including:
- Limited income
- Disability expectancy of 12 months
- Your qualified medically disabling condition must severely impact your ability to work
Physical or Mental Limitations
Depending on your disabling condition, the SSA will assess the extent of your limitations either via a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment of a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment.
RFC is short for Residual Functional Capacity and is used for those who suffer from a physical illness; on the other hand, if you suffer from a mental illness, the SSA will perform a mental residual functional capacity (MRFC) test.
Do You Need Help?
Due to the delicate and intricate nature of substance abuse, applying and qualifying for disability benefits can be difficult.
Or, if you need professional assistance for you or someone you know suffering from a substance addiction, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline.