By Melissa A. Davidson

The Administrative Law Judges at the Social Security Administration are more likely to award benefits to those who have done what they can to try to help themselves. Therefore, I would like to make a few suggestions to those of you who may be having a hearing in the future.

First, if you are struggling with drugs and/or alcohol, it is imperative that you seek help. The Social Security Administration does not pay benefits for drug or alcohol addiction. They will also not pay benefits if they feel that you would be able to work if you stopped using drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can cause mental health conditions to be worsened. Judges have a very hard time trying to determine how well a person can function when they consistently use drugs or alcohol. It is easier for the judge to consider paying a claim if the person has a long period of being clean and sober. This way the judge can see whether functioning improves.

A second way to improve your chances of winning is to work with a place like Vocational Rehabilitation to help you try to find a job. Vocational Rehabilitation helps people with disabilities find employment. This means that they talk with you about your disabilities, may gather medical records, or even send you for testing. They can provide a job coach to come to your job and help you learn the procedures. They can even help obtain special chairs, computer programs or other devices to help you return to work.

If Vocational Rehab finds a job you can do, then you should let us know. You may still qualify for Social Security disability. If Vocational Rehab cannot find you employment, they will provide you with a letter stating they were unable to help you. This is great evidence for your case. It shows that you were willing to do whatever you could to return to the workforce, but was not able. Either outcome is beneficial to you!