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Social Security Law and the Need for Pennsylvania Residents to Follow Prescribed Treatment

Substance abuse can affect a claim for Social Security benefits, making it difficult for disabled individuals in Pennsylvania to secure the benefits to which they might be entitled by law.  In some circumstances, those suffering from a disability may be abusing prescription medications or alcohol.  Pennsylvania Social Security Disability attorneys can help strengthen claims for benefits by ensuring that all rules and regulations are met and that a disability is unrelated to the impact of this abuse or addiction.  Understanding the impact of substance abuse and the importance of abiding by prescribed medications is important to a successful disability claim.

The Social Security Administration makes clear in their Code of Federal Regulations that in order to receive benefits for a disability, claimants must abide by their physician’s prescribed treatment.  Section 404.1530 lists exceptions, which are acceptable reasons for failing to abide by treatment.  These reasons include situations in which the treatment is large in scope or risky.

Another component of receiving disability benefits is making sure that drug addiction or alcoholism is not a contributing factor that is material to the determination of disability.  Substance Use Disorders, as termed by the Social Security Administration, are evaluated to determine whether claimants have “drug addiction and alcoholism” that contributes to their disability.  When a claimant is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will not be considered disabled if this addiction is a contributing factor to the determination that they are disabled.  Essentially, the question is whether the drug or alcohol addiction is the material disability, or whether another impairment is responsible for the disability.

The combined effects of these two rules set forth by the Social Security Administration can be complicated for disability claimants.  For example, if an individual drinks alcohol while also taking prescription anti-depressant medication, their doctor and the Social Security Administration may find that their depression has been worsened through alcohol.  Additionally, the alcohol may be deemed to be a contributing factor to the disabling condition.  Also, the individual may be found to have veered from their physician’s advice and medication.

Conduct that increases the severity of a condition, whether the condition is one of mental health issues or diabetes, should be discontinued.  Once a disability claimant has ceased behavior that may have contributed to the mental health issue (such as drinking alcohol), the Social Security Administration will determine whether the alcohol can be deemed not to be contributing to the ongoing disability. If an individual stops abusing drugs or alcohol, the Social Security Administration will assess whether significant time has passed, such that the individual remains disabled, separate from the effects of the alcohol.

Ideally, individuals applying for Social Security Disability will refrain from using illegal substances and only take those prescribed medications their doctors indicate are helpful for their condition. The Social Security Disability lawyers at Needle Law Firm can provide additional guidance for a Social Security Disability claim.  Receiving legal advice early in the process of applying for Social Security benefits can help claimants ensure that they abide by the Social Security rules.  To discuss your claim in more detail with a dedicated Pennsylvania Social Security lawyer, call our office at 570-344-1266 or complete our online form.

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