Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Protections and Benefits in Regard to Addiction Treatment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 61 million adults in the U.S. (1 in 4 adults) live with some type of disability. A disability can severely impact your ability to care for yourself or others, carry out work-related responsibilities, and even make your own decisions. Still, people with disabilities deserve fulfilling lives and they have certain rights, many of which are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
People with disabilities face many unique challenges in everyday life. They are also 2-4 times more likely to abuse substances than the general population. Since so many Americans with disabilities also struggle with addiction, and because addiction itself is sometimes considered a disability, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of the ADA and what your protections are when seeking addiction treatment.
At Sheer Recovery, we are committed to helping you regain control of your life by breaking the bonds of addiction. Our team of dedicated admissions counselors is available now to answer any questions you may have about the ADA or obtaining the treatment you deserve.
What is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that was passed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush. It is renowned for being one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. The law guarantees civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in several areas of their lives.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the ADA guarantees that people with disabilities can:
- Enjoy the same employment opportunities as everyone else
- Participate in state and local government programs
- Purchase goods and services
Is Addiction a Disability Under the ADA?
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a person has a disability if they:
- Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, e.g. someone with bipolar disorder, diabetes, or addiction to alcohol; or
- Have a history of an impairment that substantially limited one or more major life activities, e.g. someone who is in remission from cancer or someone in recovery from the illegal use of drugs; or
- Are regarded as having such an impairment, e.g. An employer assumes an employee has an addiction to drugs (whether or not the person actually has an addiction), and takes a negative employment action based on that belief, such as refusal to promote, a poor performance rating, or termination.
Addiction is considered a disability under the ADA because it can significantly affect physical and neurological functions that are a part of major life activities. Major life activities include things like walking, caring for oneself, working, learning, communicating, and controlling bodily functions.
However, it is important to note that the ADA looks at alcohol use disorder and illegal drug use differently. Alcohol use disorder generally is considered a disability whether you are still currently drinking or if your alcoholism is in the past. On the other hand, when it comes to drug addictions like opioid use disorder, the ADA only protects people who are no longer engaging in illegal drug use.
As long as you are in recovery and no longer engaging in illicit drug use, the ADA considers your drug addiction to be a physical or mental impairment, therefore, a disability. If that disability impacts your ability to thrive at work, school, or home, your rights are protected under the ADA.
Your Rights and Protections Under the Americans With Disabilities Act
The ADA guarantees all disabled persons certain rights and protections. Some of the most important protections are in regard to employment.
The ADA addresses drug and alcohol addiction in each stage of employment, including during application and interview, after a job offer but before starting work, and while on the job. It ensures that you have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else and that you can’t be discriminated against for having a disability. As long as you can carry out the obligations of your job in a successful manner, you cannot be denied a job or fired from a job simply because you are disabled.
On a federal level, the ADA applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees as well as all state and local governments. Some states have passed non-discrimination laws that also apply the ADA to private employers who have fewer than 15 employees.
Under the ADA, employers cannot:
- Ask about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability on an application or in an interview
- Inquire about past experiences seeking treatment for a condition, including drug or alcohol addiction
- Ask questions about your disability that do not pertain directly to your responsibilities on the job
However, if you need accommodations or your disability affects your ability to carry out your job, your employer may be able to take the necessary actions.
Other non-employment-related rights that are guaranteed under the ADA include:
- Accessibility options must be available to you on public transportation services
- Equal opportunity to benefit from state and local government programs, services, and activities
- Accessibility accommodations must be provided by private entities and nonprofit service providers that offer public services such as doctors’ offices, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and more.
- Equal opportunity to housing as it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability
Can I Get Disability Benefits for My Drug and Alcohol Addiction?
Some people who have a disability are entitled to disability benefits. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must determine that you have a disability, confirm medical evidence of your condition, and screen to determine whether or not your impairment would continue after stopping drug and alcohol use.
If the SSA determines you are eligible for benefits, they will require you to receive treatment services at an approved facility and that you comply with the terms and conditions of your treatment. Benefits that you may be entitled to include:
- Supplemental security income – Supplemental income may be granted to those who are unable to work or do not have enough income to provide for basic needs.
- Social security disability insurance – Insurance benefits may be granted to those who have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security.
If your condition would improve if you stopped using drugs or alcohol, you are unlikely to qualify for disability benefits. You only qualify if your impairment continues after stopping your drug use.
Find Support for Addiction and Recovery Today
Before you can worry about things like getting a new job or getting your life back on track, you have to get sober by seeking treatment for your addiction. Once you get sober, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. You may even be entitled to benefits that can make your life easier as you work on your recovery.
Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need and deserve. Call now to speak with a team member about your treatment options and how to get started.