The SSA is requesting comments about its operating procedures for determining disability for persons whose drug addiction or alcoholism (DAA) may be a contributing factor material to a determination of disability (75 Fed. Reg. 4900, January 29, 2010).
The law provides that a person will not be considered disabled for purposes of the SSDI or the SSI programs if his or her DAA is a contributing factor material to a determination of disability (§§223(d)(2)(C) and 1614(a)(3)(J) of the Social Security Act). If the agency finds that a person is disabled and it has medical evidence of DAA, it must decide whether the DAA is material to the determination of disability. To do this, the SSA evaluates which of the person's disabling physical and mental limitations would remain if he or she stopped using drugs or alcohol. It then determines whether any or all of these remaining limitations would be disabling. The DAA is material to the SSA's determination of disability when the agency finds that the person's remaining limitations would not be disabling (20 CFR §§404.1535, 416.935).
Types of comments requested
The SSA is asking for comments on the procedures it follows when evaluating DAA. In particular, the agency is interested in what, if any, changes should be made to its instructions, including but not limited to the following:
• What evidence should it consider to be medical evidence of DAA?
• How should it evaluate claims of people who have a combination of DAA and at least one other physical impairment?
• How should it evaluate the claims of people who have a combination of DAA and at least one other mental impairment?
• Whether it should include using cigarettes and other tobacco products in its instructions?
• How long a period of abstinence or nonuse should it consider to determine whether DAA is material to a determination of disability?
• Whether there is any special guidance it can provide for people with DAA who are homeless?
Responses due no later than March 30, 2010
To ensure that all comments are considered, the agency must receive them no later than March 30, 2010. They may be submitted by any one of three methods—Internet, fax or mail—to any of the addressess listed in the notice. Regardless of which method is chosen, please state that the comments refer to Docket No. SSA-2009-0081 so that the SSA may associate them with the correct document. Caution: Please include only information that may be made publicly available.