Justice Rehabilitated: Disabled man gets a chance for a stable life, despite history of drug addiction

Living on the streets with HIV, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, uncontrolled diabetes resulting in ulcers on his foot, and peripheral neuropathy has made treatment and stability almost impossible for our 59 year-old client. Drug use offered him an occasional escape from his painful life.

He applied for Social Security disability benefits for years, but was repeatedly denied because he is also addicted to drugs. According to federal law, a person may not be awarded benefits if alcohol and drug addiction are considered material to their disability.

Finally, he sought the help of the AIDS Law Project and with our representation he was awarded disability benefits.

At the Social Security hearing, we argued that our client’s drug addiction is not material to his disability. The administrative law judge agreed that the client’s multiple health impairments, advanced age and limited past work experience render him unable to work, regardless of his drug addiction.

With profound physical and mental disabilities and no steady income, a stable life would be forever out of his reach. The client is now living in a Philadelphia drug rehabilitation facility. We hope that this regular income will help him continue on his path to finally finding some peace in his life.