Can I Get SSDI Benefits For Opioid Addiction From Prescribed Medication?

Can I get SSDI benefits for Opioid Addiction from prescribed medication?

Opioid addiction have become one of US’s biggest drug concerns. This type of drug can be either synthetically produced or derived from opium. Most commonly used as pain relief, they are effective, but also have the potential to become addictive in some patients.

The term “opioids” can include anything from the illicit heroin to synthetic versions like fentanyl (a very tiny amount can be instantly fatal) as well as prescription pain relievers such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone (also known as OxyContin), hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) and a number of others.

Opioids are great at relieving chronic pain, but patients can’t just stop taking them or they quickly experience withdrawal. The unfortunate nature of their effectiveness is also the pathway to addiction.

More than 40% of individuals on Social Security Disability are prescribed opioids for pain relief. Many are on very high doses for musculoskeletal disorders, which comprised 94% of chronic users. Depression among opioid users is about 38%. But if you find yourself unable to live without them, even when properly prescribed by a doctor, you could be addicted.

What Is An Opioid?

The term “opioid” describes a class of drugs that bind to the body’s opioid receptors. Morphine and other opioids are frequently prescribed for pain.

Opioids can also offer a feeling of euphoria, leading to the continued use and eventual mis-use of prescriptions. This is how many people become addicted in a short period of time.

Prescription opioid addiction is a particularly difficult situation, because the patient is frequently in a certain degree of pain. As with any addictive drug, the patient may find themselves increasing the amount of medication to get the same degree of relief from the drug. Eventually, they can’t stop taking the drug, because they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms as well as the return of physical pain. In some cases, patients may turn to more illegal forms of opioid like heroin if they are unable to acquire additional prescriptions.

Disability For Opioid Addiction

Social Security’s rules for disability due to addiction are very straightforward, and the short answer is usually “no.” But it’s not that simple.

Social Security doesn’t consider a drug addiction of any kind a disabling condition, even if it prevents someone from working. Only until it produces irreversible, permanent conditions does the Social Security Administration consider someone eligible for disability. All cases are reviewed in the same manner, no matter how the disability occurred.

SSA does not consider an addiction to properly prescribed prescription drugs to need a drug addiction or alcoholism determination (DAA.) However, SSA can take into consideration the disabling effects and limitations caused by a prescription that is used to treat a condition that a claimant is applying for. The side effects of a medication should be included when describing the seriousness of a patient’s condition.

In Social Security Ruling 13-2p, the SSA clarifies this point by stating that a DAA determination is “not to be applied” in cases of “addiction to, or use of, prescription medications taken as prescribed, including methadone and narcotic pain medications.” This also means that any side effects of the prescription will be taken into account when considering if a claimant’s symptoms are severe enough to be disabling.

What SSA Will Consider

The SSA previously had a listing for drug addiction, but as of 2018, that listing no longer exists. Impairments that result from a substance abuse addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage (neurocognitive disorders)
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatitis

Of course, as with any condition, the SSA will require evidence of your condition, including diagnostic reports, your treating physicians’ contact information, details of any hospitalization, and a list of your medications and associated side effects.

While chronic misuse of opioids such as codeine may not produce permanent organ damage, improvements in brain imaging offer evidence of abnormalities as a result of codeine. This may also apply to other forms of opioid narcotics.

Permanent limitations that result from opioid drug use may be considered disabling if they are to the degree that they are serious enough to rate.

Houston’s Opioid Addiction Attorney

Social Security Disability laws are complicated and complex. If you’ve been denied disability payments for drug addiction or other debilitating condition, call us immediately. We’re ready to help.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

Can I Get VA Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

You may have noticed that you’re not hearing as well as you did before, or you keep asking people to repeat something. Did this happen during your time on active duty?

Doctor talking to an older female patient about Houston, TX VA disability benefits for hearing loss.

 

Hearing Loss Can Affect Anyone

Most people think of age-related hearing loss (the loss of the hair-like cells in your inner ear), or people who were born without hearing. But losing your hearing can happen to anyone anytime without an explanation. Even excessive earwax can cause hearing loss, but more common causes include:

  • Exposure to loud noises, including construction equipment, power tools, concerts, movies, and other high-decibel sounds without protection.
  • Listening to music too loud in earphones
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear, especially after loud concerts and movies)
  • Traumatic brain and other injuries to the head
  • Tumors and other growths in the ear area
  • Medications for conditions such as cancer and infections (antibiotics)
  • Sudden altitude and pressure changes during flying (or even driving)
  • Diseases in children such as:
    • Chickenpox
    • Smallpox
    • Meningitis
    • Measles
    • Mumps
  • Other chronic illnesses such as:
    • Heart disease and hypertension
    • Autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and lupus)
    • Diabetes
    • Strokes

Veterans may have some of these causes, but their hearing losses are more commonly caused by experiences in the military, such as gunfire, transport, airplane and helicopter engines, and other artillery explosions (i.e., hand grenades.)

Like any VA disability claim, you’ll be required to establish a service connection for your hearing loss.

Three Steps

Just filling out an application will not help you get rated. In order to apply, you’ll need:

  • A current diagnosis of hearing loss from a licensed audiologist, who will administer two different diagnostic tests to be submitted to the VA:
    • Maryland CNC Test, which uses a 50-word list to determine how well you can recognize speech
    • Puretone Audiometric Test, which measures the lightest sounds you can pick up on and hear
    • Note: when you’re being tested, remove any hearing aids and let the audiologist know you’re taking this test to satisfy the VA’s requirement for establishing a service connection.
  • Establishment of a service connection, which may include examining your service records for evidence of any types of activity that could have contributed to or caused your hearing loss. Wartime service can be used to make that connection as well.
  • A corroborating medical opinion, one that can effectively link your hearing loss to your time in service

It’s not uncommon for hearing problems to develop some years after your discharge—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t service related. If you can demonstrate that you were exposed to loud noises during your time in the service, you still may be able to establish a service connection for your hearing loss.

Meniere’s Disease

This inner-ear disorder causes a number of symptoms, including hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, and pressure or “fullness” in the affected ear. It normally affects only one ear, and can also include fluid in the ear. While there are treatments for Meniere’s Disease, there is no cure.

The VA does rate on Meniere’s Disease, as much as 100% if you’re experiencing weekly bouts of vertigo and its related symptoms. Other inner ear disorders rate between 10% and 30%.

Hearing Loss Ratings

As with all disability ratings, the VA draws from the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. Auditory (hearing) disorders are found under Section 4.87, in diagnostic codes 6200 to 6260. While tinnitus and hearing loss are common for veterans, there are other types of disorders that the VA will rate, including:

  • Cancer in the ear area. The VA gives a 100% rating for the six months following the end of treatments.
  • An inner ear problem called “peripheral vestibular disorder” rates at 10% if it causes you dizziness on occasion, and 30% if your dizziness is accompanied by staggering
  • The loss of one ear (external) is a 30% rating, whereas the loss of both ears rate at 50%, assuming that you have at least some hearing despite the loss of the ear itself.
  • The VA rates all cases of perforated eardrums at 0%.

If you have total hearing loss in both ears, you may also be eligible for a special monthly compensation.

Herren Law Can Help With Your VA Disability Benefits Claim

The VA does award disability benefits for hearing loss, but you have to apply, as you would for any type of disability. We can help make sure that your application is done correctly, and can also help with an appeal if your claim is denied.

Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

Disability Claims for Mental Disorders in Houston, TX

Applying for disability benefits for a physical condition is a time-consuming task long before you begin receiving monthly payments. But filing disability claims for mental disorders can be considerably more difficult in Texas, where more than 70% of initial claims are denied.

Girl in bed showing why disability claims for mental disorders in Houston, TX are so important. with her mother holding her hand

Although the Social Security Administration does recognize mental illness as something that can cause long-term disability, you must be diagnosed by a physician, and meet the same criteria as any other injury or illness. The SSA awards benefits for a physical and/or mental disorder that prevents you from working, but only after a long process of medical treatments, documentation, applications, and a lot of waiting.

Mental Disorders

There are a wide range of mental disorders for which you may be able to receive disability, including:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Affective disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and aren’t considered brain injuries
  • Anxiety related disorders, if you can show that they prevent you from working
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Somatoform disorders, for which there is no obvious or discernable cause
  • Organic disorders that affect the nervous system, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, delirium

The SSA’s guidelines for mental disorder are contained in its book of policies known as the “Blue Book.”

Qualifying For A Mental Disorder Disability

Proving disability claims for mental disorders requires providing more than adequate documentation in your claim application. In it, you must provide:

  • All sources of treatments, including names and contact information of doctors, hospitals, and other providers where you have sought and received treatments.
  • The types of treatments you’ve received, as far back as you have evidence for. While the SSA considers “current treatment” to be within the last 90 days, “back pay” will require information dating as far back as you can provide to show how long you have been dealing with your condition. Without current treatments, there is no way for the SSA to understand that you are currently unable to perform substantial gainful activity (work.)
  • Detailed work history, including companies, dates, job title and job duties, just as you would if you were filling out a job application.

You must have one severe impairment with considerable medical evidence (documentation) to support your claim for an approval. This impairment must affect you so severely that you are unable to return to any job you performed in the prior 15 years, and makes it impossible for you to do any other kind of “suitable work” at a level that brings in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA.)

Currently, that monthly dollar amount is $1,220, adjusted for inflation and before taxes. In other words, Social Security considers a “disability” to be the inability to work and earn at least that much for at least one year. If you’re earning more, your claim will likely be denied regardless of your condition.

Why You Need A Disability Attorney

Getting disability claims for mental disorders approved can be more difficult than a physical one. So it’s even more critical to not only have all your documentation for your claim, but to ensure that everything is done exactly right.

You may only be doing this once in your life, and will spend a considerable amount of time on it. A Houston disability attorney can not only help your chances of winning, he or she can also save you a considerable amount of time.

A disability attorney helps people every day get the benefits they need, and understands the laws, policies and procedures that govern the application and awards process. Instead of going into the claims process blindly, a Houston disability attorney will be your advocate through the claim process, and if necessary, appeals process. Claimants who are represented by an attorney have a much better chance of approval, either in the application process or in the appeals process.

Houston’s Disability Attorney

If you’ve been denied disability payments for mental illness, call us immediately. We’re ready to help.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

Can I Claim Disability Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

Most people think that losing your hearing part of “getting older.” But it can happen to anyone at any age for different reasons. Age-related hearing loss comes from the gradual loss of hair cells in the inner-ear.

While some individuals are born deaf, hearing loss happens with certain medical conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder. Musician Huey Lewis suddenly found himself unable to hear onstage in 2018, and was diagnosed with possible Meniere’s disease. As a result of his inability to hear during concerts, Huey Lewis and The News canceled their tour schedule.

Can I Claim Disability Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

 

Causes Of Hearing Loss

Meniere’s Disease is just one of a number of possible causes for hearing loss. Other causes include:

  • On-the-job exposure to loud noises, or other exposures to sudden loud noises (power tools, etc.)
  • Tinnitus, ringing in the ears after loud noises (especially loud concerts)
  • Loud music with earphones or earbuds
  • Injuries, such as severe head trauma
  • Childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps, meningitis and chickenpox
  • Abrupt pressure changes from activities like flying or diving
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics and cancer drugs
  • Chronic disease, such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and some autoimmune diseases
  • Growths and/or tumor in the ear system
  • Ear wax buildup

If hearing loss prevents you from full-time work, or you are disabled and can no longer work, it may be time to apply for disability.

Qualifying For Disability With Hearing Loss

Like any other type of disability, you will have to meet the qualifications for disability with hearing loss. In this case, you’ll have to verify your hearing loss to medically qualify for benefits.

Although it’s covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you’ll still have to prove that your condition is serious enough that reasonable accommodations by your employer are not enough to enable you to continue working in any job that you might be qualified for. You’ll need to document the essential functions of your job, previous jobs, and how hearing loss prevents you from performing your job even with reasonable accommodations available.

SSA will also require you to have hearing testing using the “Blue Book” disability listing, conducted by an otolaryngologist or an audiologist certified by The American Board of Audiology or The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The testing must be done without any hearing appliances, such as hearing aids.

Inform your doctor that you will be applying for disability benefits for hearing loss, and request that he or she review the Blue Book requirements beforehand so your tests are conducted according to SSA’s rules.

First the doctor must conduct a physical exam of your ears, including the internal and external ear, middle ear and the tympanic membranes.

Secondary testing includes:

  • Pure tone and bone conduction audiometry—an average hearing threshold of 60 to 90 decibels or greater in the better ear, dependent upon the testing method, or
  • Word recognition test—a score of 40% or lower in the better ear

If you have hearing loss with a cochlear implant, you will automatically qualify medically for disability benefits for hearing loss at least one year after surgery. If your word recognition score is still 60% or below on a “hearing in noise” test more than one year after the surgery, your benefits will be extended until your hearing improves, if it does.

Translations: Communicating With SSA

If you need an interpreter to properly communicate with SSA, ask for one. SSA will provide a free sign language interpreter for anyone who needs help communicating with them. An interpreter will ensure that the applicant will have an accurate and complete translation of all related communications between them and SSA. Sign language interpreters are bound by confidentiality rules, and cannot repeat what they translated. This offers the same privacy as a person who can hear. A hearing-impaired person won’t have to rely on family members, or be embarrassed trying to communicate with a case worker because they can’t hear or understand the questions.

Let Herren Law Help With Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss

You may be able to collect disability after severe hearing loss, but you won’t know unless you apply. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.