Case Conclusion Date: September 5, 2012
Practice Area: Social Security
Outcome: Fully Favorable
Description: Claimant intravenous drug overdose distinguished from "Cause" of continuing disability defects of heart and cognitive capabilities, despite impairments apparent "flow from" drug use. LEGAL MEMO on 42 USCA 423(d)(2)(c)(2) There are two common misunderstandings about the prohibition on considering alcoholism and drug addiction as disabling impairments. One is that the claimant who is drinking or using drugs may not be found disabled. The other is that any health problem flowing from alcoholism or drug addiction may not be considered disabling. Since alcoholism and drug addiction are common problems and since alcoholics and drug addicts get sick and get injured the same as other folks, it is to be anticipated that, in fact, many drug addicts and alcoholics will be entitled to Disability benefits despite their battles with addiction to these substances. Congress did not enact a requirement of MORAL WORTHINESS AS A CONDITION FOR RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS. ALL THAT CONGRESS WROTE INTO LAW WAS A PROHIBITION ON “APPROVING DISABILITY CLAIMS BECAUSE AN INDIVIDUAL WAS A DRUG ADDICT OR BECAUSE AS INDIVIDUAL WAS AN ALCOHOLIC”. The many health problems that are caused by alcoholism or drug addiction MAY ALSO BE CONSIDERED DISABLING, SO LONG AS THEY WOULD REMAIN, EVEN IF THE CLAIMANT DISCONTINUED DRINKING OR USING DRUGS. (5 USCA 8331). Thus, AIDS caused by intravenous drug use, severe liver disease caused by alcohol or drug use, organic brain syndrome caused by drinking, severe trauma caused by driving while intoxicated and many similar medical conditions associated with alcohol or drug use MAY STILL BE CONSIDERED DISABLING UNDER THE LAW. Alcoholics and drug addicts CAN BE FOUND DISABLED AND DRAW BENEFITS---JUST NOT ON THE “BASIS OF THEIR DISEASE BEING ALCOHOLISM OR THEIR DISEASE BEING DRUG ADDICTION” (20 CFR 404.1535(b)(1)). A Further MYTH on this alcohol and Drug “Bar to recovery” idea is that an illness caused by alcoholism or drug addiction may never be considered in determining disability. This myth is based on the idea that if the alcoholic or drug addict would simply “Stop using” the physical or mental impairment would just “go away”. This is simply not the truth, or the Law. Most of the time serious impairments caused by alcohol or drug use, such as terminal liver disease, AIDS, Cognitive losses, peripheral neuropathy, cardiomyopathy, etc CANNOT BE REVERSED BY DISCONTINUING ALCOHOL OR DRUGS. Claimants in this type of situation SHOULD BE FOUND DISABLED (20 CFR 404.1535(b)(1)).