Oct 16, 2008

An Oldie But A Goodie -- On DAA The Tie Goes To The Claimant

This is nothing new. In fact, it dates back to August 30, 1996 when the statute forbidding payment of disability benefits when drug abuse or alcoholism is material to the determination of disability was very new. It is just that it remains important and remains current Social Security policy, but people who ought to know better, both inside and outside Social Security, keep forgetting Emergency Message 96-200. Here is the key quote:
Q. The most complicated and difficult determinations of materiality [of drue abuse or alcoholism] will involve individuals with documented substance use disorders and one or more other mental impairments. In many of these instances, it will be very difficult to disentangle the restrictions and limitations imposed by the substance use disorder from those resulting from the other mental impairment(s). Can any examples be provided for how to handle the materiality determination in these situations/ or can any guidance be provided for the type of information that should be used in trying to assess the impact of each impairment?

A. We know of no research data upon which to reliably predict the expected improvement in a coexisting mental, impairment(s) should drug/alcohol use stop. The most useful evidence that might be obtained in such cases is that relating to a period when the individual was not using drugs/alcohol. Of course, when evaluating this type of evidence consideration must be given to the length of the period of abstinence, how recently it occurred, and whether there may have been any increase in the limitations and restrictions imposed by-the other mental impairments since the last period of abstinence. When it is not possible to separate the mental restrictions and limitations imposed by DAA and the various other mental disorders shown by the evidence, a finding of "not material" would be appropriate. See the response to question 27.

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