Social Security New Policy Ruling: What Does it Mean?

The Social Security Administration has just released Policy Ruling 13-2p. These rulings occur infrequently and are designed to clarify the law for Social Security Administration judges.

Social Security Ruling 13-2p focuses on how Social Security Judges consider cases involving drug and alcohol use. As the law is currently written, an individual may not be found disabled if drug or alcohol addiction is (1) the main reason for their disability, or (2) the drug or alcohol addiction aggravates an underlying condition.

As the law now stands, the Social Security Judge must decide whether the drug or alcohol addiction is "material" to an individual's disability.

The new ruling provides that if the disability claimant's drug or alcohol problem is material, the Administrative Law Judge is required to look at the entire evidence record to decide whether the individual's impairments, whether physical or mental, directly related to, caused by, or aggravated by, the drug or alcohol addiction. Where the Social Security Judge finds that it is, an unfavorable determination is most likely. Conversely, where the Social Security Judge determines that the drug or alcohol problem, in and of itself, does not have an effect on the individual's ongoing impairments, and these ongoing impairments are severe enough on their own to warrant a finding of disabled, a favorable decision may be reached, regardless of the addiction.

It should be further noted that the new SSR 13-2p has not been officially released. It is currently in the public comment stage.

The entire SSR 13-2p may be found here:

http://ssa.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/01/SSR2013-02-di-01.html

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