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Reporting Drug and Alcohol Use to Your Sherman Oaks Social Security Disability Lawyer

Posted on :August 3, 2016Byjpadmin

Sherman Oaks Social Security Disability Lawyer Explains Drug and Alcohol Use During a Claim

While it may be uncomfortable to discuss, your attorney should know if you use drugs not prescribed by a medical treatment provider, or drink immoderate amounts of alcohol.  Abuse of these substances will not necessarily block your application for benefits, but it may very well have an impact upon your claim that could support or hurt it.  Since use of alcohol, non-prescribed medication, or other substances will show up in medical tests and be a part of your medical record, it is important to discuss this use with your attorney.

Privacy Concerns

As an important initial matter, the fact that a person’s Social Security disability claim includes illegal drug use should not get them arrested.  Social Security disability evaluators do not report a person’s use of illegal drugs to the police or other law enforcement officials based on any information included by your application for Social Security disability benefits.  Like hospitals, Social Security disability evaluators are required to keep your medical history confidential.  This privacy consideration goes the same for the financial records they receive as part of your disability application, in that they will not report undeclared earnings to the IRS or state tax collectors.

Social Security disability evaluators are required to respect the privacy of your medical records based on the policy that you should not need to worry about being honest with your medical care providers when seeking treatment or Social Security disability benefits.  Likewise, your Social Security disability attorney is required to keep such information confidential with exceptions only in extreme situations.

Effect on Application

Use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs may be considered by the Social Security Administration as part of your mental condition when determining whether you are capable of working on a sustainable basis.  Proof of an applicant’s use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs is based on medical information from accepted physical or mental treatment sources, laboratory findings, and other specified medical treatment evidence.  A person’s own reports, reports from other treatment providers, or arrest records are not considered enough proof to establish that a person has a significant impairment due to alcohol or non-prescribed drug abuse.

Should the alcohol or non-prescribed drug abuse be expected to last for over one year, an administrative law judge will need to evaluate the effects it has upon your abilities to perform self-care and work activities.  For adults, this inquiry will focus on your ability to perform daily living activities, your ability to interact with other people, your ability to maintain your concentration and focus, and whether you have been committed to a hospital for a substantial amount of time for treatment of a mental disorder.

While evaluated as a mental condition, alcohol and non-prescribed drug use will usually be treated differently than other mental impairments.  The Social Security Administration applies a two-part test regarding use of these substances.  First, the Social Security Administration determines whether a person’s drug addiction or alcohol abuse has more than a minimal effect upon a person’s physical or mental abilities.  If it does, then the person examining a disability claim must make a determination as to whether the person would still be considered disabled if they were not using alcohol or non-prescribed drugs.  The reason for this test is to avoid requiring that disability claim evaluators, who usually have no medical training, make a decision as to whether any of a person’s other impairments would improve if the person stopped using alcohol or non-prescribed substances.

Practically speaking, an evaluator will usually tend to find that an applicant’s use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs has a material effect upon their condition just to be safe side for later appeals.  The second evaluation, whether the person would still be disabled without their use of these substances, is a harder decision and regularly depends upon each decision-maker’s subjective experiences and beliefs.  Overall, a number of the mental or physical impairments a person experiences that are related to substance abuse will be removed from disability considerations based upon this test.

However, there are some alcohol or non-prescribed drug use-related mental disorders that the Social Security Administration will not set aside from your evaluation.  Fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal cocaine exposure, and addictions to prescription medications when used as they are prescribed should not be excluded.

Another two relevant conditions include Substance-Induced Persisting Dementia and Substance-Induced Amnestic Disorders.  These conditions are mental impairments that describe intoxication or withdrawal-like effects last beyond the usual time frame of intoxication and withdrawal.  Substance-Induced Persisting Dementia describes a condition in which a person suffers from impaired memory along with aphasia (memory-related speech and language problems), apraxia (muscle-related speech problems), agnosia (problems recognizing sensory inputs), or a disturbance in higher-level functioning.  Substance-Induced Amnestic Disorders is made up of a combination of multiple memory problems that significantly impair social or work functioning and demonstrate a significant decline from a person’s earlier function levels.  These conditions need to be documented through medical history, physical examination, or laboratory findings and shown that they are the result of persistent substance use.  Diagnosis with either of these conditions will be treated as an ordinary mental or physical impairment as they will not be expected to go away even after a long period without using alcohol or non-prescribed medication.

A Social Security disability attorney can help limit any harm to a disability claim due to a person’s alcohol or non-prescribed drug use.  One important issue will be whether a person’s history of alcohol or non-prescribed drug use has lasted longer than the relevant disability period at basically the same levels.  Other relevant points include the need to help with pain control and whether pain medications were prescribed or are actually affordable.  An attorney should also know about significant periods where no alcohol or substance use occurred, regardless of whether it was voluntary or enforced through a treatment program or incarceration, as these might be used in evaluating a person’s baseline functioning.  Since the person applying for Social Security disability has to prove they are disabled, you should be sure to tell your Sherman Oaks Social Security disability lawyer if you have any history of ongoing alcohol or non-prescribed drug use.

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