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Addiction and disability benefits

Opioid addiction is ravaging West Virginia. While opioid abuse is a problem throughout the country, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of opioid abuse and overdoses of any state in the county. Oxycodone and heroin are common, but other opioids are increasingly finding their way to the streets. Carfentanil, drug used to sedate elephants, is responsible for a growing number of overdose fatalities.

In recognition of the affect opioids are having on the country, President Trump recently classified opioid addiction as a national emergency.

Addiction is not a disability, according to the SSA

The medical community has long understood that opioid addiction is a medical disease. However, for Social Security Disability benefits, it is not a qualifying disabling condition on its own. In other words, while a serious opioid addiction can certainly prevent working, you cannot receive benefits based on having this disease alone.

Addiction does not prohibit disability benefits

An opioid addiction does not preclude getting disability benefits. While in West Virginia, drug screening is required for individuals who want to go on public assistance, the same is not true of Social Security Disability benefits, a federal program.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Opioid abuse causes significant health problems. These health problems can be long-lasting, or permanent, and may meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Administration's definition.
  • Opioid addiction often results from other health conditions. People who must daily manage significant pain often become addicted to opioids, even when using the prescriptions as directed.
  • Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are all risk factors in addiction and opioid abuse

Previously, the SSA listed several criteria for qualifying for disability benefits based on addiction. These included brain damage, organ damages (such as cirrhosis), anxiety, depression and a few others. The SSA no longer specifically lists disabilities associated with addiction, but people suffering from the disabilities named above, and others, can still qualify for benefits.

It is no surprise that people in extreme physical and mental pain often turn to opioids, with devastating results. When addiction occurs, it does not preclude getting benefits from the SSA, which can help pay for food and medical expenses for the person suffering and his or her family.

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Shawn Taylor, PLLC
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Charleston, WV 25301

Phone: 304-932-4619
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