Although the tide has turned in favor of legalizing possession and use of marijuana (it is currently legal in 25 states and Washington D.C.) that does not mean people who smoke cannabis won't experience any consequences from consuming this drug. In fact, if you're seeking Social Security disability benefits, marijuana use can have a negative impact on your case. Here are two ways smoking cannabis can result in denial of benefits.
The Drug Contributes to the Disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) won't automatically deny your application if you admit to using marijuana. However, the agency will evaluate your case to see how much affect it has on your disability. The SSA's policy regarding drug and alcohol use is to determine whether the substance contributes to your disability in a material way. If it does, then your request for disability may be denied.
When making its determination, the SSA will evaluate whether you would still be disabled if you stopped using marijuana; so your specific disability will have some influence on the administration's findings. For instance, if you're paralyzed from the waist down, your marijuana use will likely be considered irrelevant, since you would still be paralyzed even if you stopped using the drug.
Because marijuana primarily affects the brain and lungs, people with mental illnesses, brain disorders, and lung diseases may face greater scrutiny than those who are disabled in other ways. For instance, high doses of THC—the active ingredient in cannabis—appears to worsen some mental illnesses, such as depression. So if you are claiming disability based on severe depression, the SSA may feel your marijuana use is contributing to the problem. They may deny your claim based on this or you may be required to submit evidence showing the drug has a minimal impact on your condition.
You're Not Following the Doctor's Orders
The Social Security Administration expects applicants to follow the treatments prescribed for their disabilities by their healthcare providers. This is likely because the agency expects people to do what they can to increase their chances of returning to or obtaining employment as soon as possible, particularly in cases where the disability is temporary.
You may be denied disability benefits if marijuana use is prohibited by the doctor or it worsens your condition in some way. If you have COPD, for example, your claim may be rejected if you smoke marijuana, since smoking this substance can worsen lung function.
Another issue is the SSA requires treatments to be effective enough to restore a person's ability to work in cases where a person's condition can be improved that much. The agency may not accept a prescribed cannabis treatment if there is no reliable evidence it is effective for the condition it's supposed to help.
For instance, some people use marijuana to help alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis. However, the evidence supporting the efficacy of this drug on MS symptoms is mixed. Additionally, the side effects of using cannabis (e.g. reduced mental acuity) may negatively impact a person's ability to obtain or maintain employment, which the SSA may find undesirable.
If the SSA challenges your application for benefits based on this issue, you will need to provide proof that either the drug is not having a negative impact on your condition or the benefits of using it outweigh the drawbacks. You may need to submit information on medical studies showing its efficacy for your particular disability or medical records indicating how your condition has improved after using the drug.
For more information about how marijuana use impacts your ability to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, contact a social security disability lawyer.Share
24 June 2016
My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.