It’s a common misconception that Veterans can’t receive VA disability benefits for drug or alcohol abuse. While substance abuse can’t receive a direct service connection, addiction can be a secondary service-connected disability that is eligible for benefits. However, earning recognition of this disability from the VA can be a challenge.
Service Connecting Substance Abuse
Addiction was once thought of as a sign of mental weakness or behavior caused by a lack of willpower. Medical research now supports the idea that addiction is a chronic illness that often begins when people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of other mental illnesses. Recognizing addiction as a disease is crucial in understanding how to receive Veterans disability benefits for substance abuse.
For a condition to receive a secondary service connection, it needs to have developed as the result of a condition that has a direct service connection. Often, this refers to substance abuse developing from PTSD. However, substance abuse could also be related to a number of other conditions. For example, a Veteran prescribed opioids after surgery for a service-related injury could make a case for secondary service connection if he later became addicted to the medication.
Cases involving substance abuse as a secondary service-connected disability often rely heavily on statements from family and friends who knew the Veteran both before and after service. Comparing a Veteran’s post-service rate of drug and alcohol use to behavior before entering the military helps support the view that the condition is connected to stressors from service. Describing behavioral charges is also helpful.
Get Help Accessing the Benefits You Deserve
Veterans applying for disability benefits for mental health disorders often face an uphill battle, but access to quality legal representation can make a real difference in the outcome of the case. For example, we were able to help Clarence, a navy Veteran, get compensation for PTSD, substance abuse, and major depression after his conditions made it impossible for him to continue working as a pastor. With our help, he was approved for a disability onset date that was three years earlier than what the VA had first assigned and was able to maximize his compensation by being approved for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
To learn more about how the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, can help with your claim, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We are committed to helping Veterans in the Boulder, Colorado area access the benefits they’ve earned in service of our country.