The Social Security Administration(SSA) first evaluates which work-based activities a claimant is still capable of doing in light of their impairments, which SSA refers to as a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. SSA utilizes the RFC assessment to determine whether the claimant is able to complete any substantial job the claimant has performed in the last 15 years.
If the claimant cannot do such work, then SSA converts the RFC into a degree of work outlined in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles: sedentary, light or medium work.
A decision maker then considers the claimant’s combination of RFC, age, education and work experience, determiningwhetherthe claimant’sunique combination of factors makes them disabled or not diabled.
If the claimant hypothetically stopped abusing drugs or alcohol, would their capacity to work be reinstated? If so, then the claimant’s substance abuse will be deemed “material” and disqualify the claimant for disability benefits. For example, if alcohol led to a disabling liver disease and ceasing to drink would repair the claimant’s ability to work, SSA would find that the alcoholism is material, making the claimant ineligible for benefits.
However, if cutting out drinking would not cause the claimant to be capable of working again, SSA would determine that alcoholism is not material, despite alcoholism causing the initial damage. In this case, the claimant would qualify for benefitseven if continuing to drink.
For more information regarding SSA’s medical-vocational rules, contactLawrence Social Security disability attorneyGerard A. Palma at 888-295-4955.