How do the Medical-Vocational Rules work?
First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) assesses the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), i.e. the work activities he or she can still do in spite of the impairment. Using this RFC assessment, SSA decides whether the claimant has the present ability to do any significant job he or she has done in the past 15 years. If the claimant cannot perform any such work, the RFC is used to determine a work level of sedentary, medium, or light, as defined in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. The SSA adjudicator then finds the entry on a table that corresponds to the claimant’s combination of RFC, age, education, and work experience. The table entry will tell whether or not this particular combination of factors counts as disabled.
Can alcoholism or drug addiction prevent a finding of disability?
Yes, if the SSA finds such alcoholism or drug addiction to be “material,” i.e., if the claimant’s ability to work would be restored if he or she were to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. For example, say a claimant suffers a disabling liver disease caused by heavy drinking. Such claimant would be found ineligible for benefits if stopping drinking would restore his ability to work. On the other hand, this same claimant would be eligible for benefits if stopping drinking would not restore his ability to work. This would hold true even if the condition was caused by his drinking and he still refused to stop drinking.
To better understand the manner in which SSA determines whether or not a claimant is disabled, call Thad J. Murphy, the Iowa disability lawyer.