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Roberts Law Office Injury Podcast

Nov 19, 2020

Episode 15: Calloway County injury attorney Jeff Roberts discusses the problems often created by a client’s substance abuse when filing an injury claim.  Jeff handles social security disability claims, Kentucky personal injury, workers’ compensation claims.

When a person is applying for social security disability, a history of substance abuse can be problematic.  This is especially true if the person is currently using illegal substances or abusing prescription medication.  The country is battling opioid addiction.  It has placed a higher focus on substance abuse issues as a whole.

Common substance abuse may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Illicit OxyContin
  • Heroin

If the person is taking a prescription drug according to a doctor’s orders, it’s typically not a problem.  However, if blood tests indicate there are other substances present, it’s a red flag.

Kentucky and other states track certain prescriptions and the appropriate levels.  A CASPER report is often run to verify narcotic prescriptions and others.  This helps to identify potential “doctor-shopping” situations.

It’s important injured people understand the judge making the decision about your social security disability benefits will also review those medical records as part of his/her evaluation.

Risks of Self-Medicating

Dealing with pain related to an injury or medical condition is difficult for many people.  It’s not uncommon for some to attempt to self-medicate in an attempt to manage the pain levels.  This can lead to a substance abuse issue.  The impact of substance abuse on your SSDI claim can be devastating.

It’s not uncommon for people struggling with mental-health issues to attempt to self-medicate to escape psychological or emotional issues.

Overcoming Substance Abuse on a SSDI Claim

The legal standard for the judge is whether the person would still be considered disabled if the applicant were sober.  For example, a severe back injury resulting in paralysis may lead to abuse of a pain medication.  However, that disability would still be there regardless of the substance abuse.  Jeff may be able to prove that the substance abuse is not material to the disability, therefore his client should be entitled to SSDI benefits.


It’s very important that the individual and his/her attorney have a very open conversation about any potential substance abuse issue.  It’s often better for the person to seek help in overcoming the addiction through an in-patient or out-patient treatment program.  This also goes applies to a mental health patient whose self-medicating.  The fact that the person is actively seeking treatment.  It may sit better with the judge.  Human nature and subjectivity will often come into play.

Substance Abuse for SSI Claims

The standards for disability are the same under both SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income).  Substance abuse is still an issue if you are only applying for SSI.

Workers’ Compensation claims and Substance Abuse

Jeff Roberts also handles Kentucky workers’ compensation claims.  Substance abuse can also negatively impact a workers’ comp claim.  In 2018, the KY workers’ compensation law was changed and addressed issues related to intoxication.  Under the new law, if you show up at work under the influence of an illicit substance, or at levels higher that what was prescribed, and suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you still may not be able to win a workers’ compensation claim.  This applies even if accident wasn’t caused by your being under the influence.  The question of whether the new statute applies to alcohol is still undecided (at the time of this episode’s recording).

For more information, visit This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice.  Jeff’s principal office is located at 509 Main Street, Murray, Kentucky.  Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson.  This is an advertisement.