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Federal court: Risk of substance abuse relapse is a disability

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There is a stigma the public carries about drug and alcohol abuse. Many believe that drug use is a choice. To an extent and for some, drug and alcohol abuse is based on irresponsible decisions. For some, substance abuse is the result of a sickness called addiction.

This relates to disability insurance because a person could become unable to work if she is an addict. A court of appeals in Boston confirms that point with a ruling for a doctor who fought for her disability benefits to cover her while she was struggling with addiction. It is a controversial decision, largely due to public opinion about addiction.

The plaintiff worked as a doctor and paid to have long-term disability benefits through a group plan. Her plan helped cover her drug treatment program when she became dependent upon pain medication. Once treatment was over, she ran into another battle beyond her addiction. She had to fight for disability insurance benefits.

It is difficult for addict to return to the "real world" after treatment, particularly when she works within a field where addictive substances are readily available. The doctor wanted to avoid relapse, which meant staying away from her job. She sought continued long-term disability insurance benefits to support her through her addiction but was refused them by her insurance provider.

After a lengthy legal battle, a federal appeals court has taken the doctor's side. Its opinion is that because her insurance provider didn't specifically exclude the high risk of relapse from the list of disabling conditions, it must recognize the plaintiff's right to her benefits.

Our California disability lawyers help people facing the stress of wrongfully denied claims.

Source: Insurance & Financial Advisor, "Drug-addicted doctor entitled to disability insurance benefits," Jan. 22, 2013

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