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New Social Security law to standardize stance on substance abuse

In Maryland, like throughout the rest of the U.S., drug addition and substance abuse has become a major concern for many people. Unfortunately, we seem to see more and more people coping with addiction. Many people do not know that substance abuse was once considered a disability under Social Security, but that has changed. As of Feb. 20, a new regulation has made a previous policy into law.

The previous policy allowed applicants with substance abuse alone to receive benefits from Social Security, until 1996 when a ruling was put into place that varied widely from office to office throughout the country. This ruling was meant to curb these applicants, if they did not have another disability, from receiving benefits. These variations mean that an applicant to one office with only substance abuse to claim may be approved, while another applicant elsewhere would be denied. However, this ruling has been made law for the whole of the Social Security system.

Now, if an applicant has no other disability other than substance abuse, the person is not considered to be disabled. What was once a free standing Social Security disability is no longer, formally and legally.  If the applicant has substance abuse but also has another medical impairment that would continue if the substance abuse ended, the addiction would not affect the applicant. For many physical impairments and illnesses, such as AIDS, this is clear. However, for mental illness, the situation is complicated by the potential relation between the substance abuse and the underlying illness.

As this case shows, Social Security law is often complicated by regulations or policies which vary from location to location. Consulting an attorney who has experience with this system can help to ensure that the best interests of the applicant are represented as much as possible within the existing laws.

Source: Disability News, "Drug and Alcohol Addiction as the Basis for Social Security Disability," Feb. 20, 2013

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