When counsel meets with a person who has a claim for disability benefits based primarily on a psychiatric condition, it is essential that it be determined whether the claimant has a history of drug or alcohol abuse (also known as DAA). Understand, this is not a moral judgment made on counsel’s part, but rather an essential practical determination used in evaluating whether a claimant is potentially eligible for benefits.

Prior to 1996, a claimant could receive benefits solely based upon drug or alcohol abuse or addiction with the proviso that the benefits would be paid to a representative payee and that the claimant enter mandatory treatment programs. However, this changed in 1996 when Public Law 104-121 was enacted. Specifically, the law provides that individuals shall not be considered to be disabled if the alcohol or drug addiction would be a contributing factor—material to the determination that the individual was disabled. Therefore, after 1996, it became essential to make this determination and to address this matter when meeting with a potential claimant.

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