What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder, commonly referred to as ‘addiction’, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control their use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. As a result of the traumatic events many veterans experience in service, many turn to drugs, alcohol, or other substances to cope with the psychological symptoms that trauma produces. Some of the most common conditions that lead to substance use disorder are PTSD and depression

Signs and symptoms of substance use disorder vary from person to person, but the most prevalent are:

  • Increased urge to drink or to use drugs.
  • Inability to stop drinking or using drugs, despite negative consequences.
  • Change in relationships due to drinking or drug use.
  • Feeling depressed or anxious about your substance use.
  • Feeling sick and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking or drug use stops.
  • Increased tolerance, which refers to the need over time for more alcohol or stronger drugs to achieve the desired effect.

If you or anyone you know is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, please see a doctor. Left untreated, substance use disorder can lead to the development of serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, and even overdose or death.

Getting Service Connected For Substance Use Disorder

When applying for service connection for substance use disorder, the process is a bit more complicated than for other VA disability qualifying conditions. For veterans with substance use disorder, this condition is generally eligible for VA disability benefits if it is rated alongside a condition which causes it. For example, if a veteran has PTSD and uses opiates to cope with his or her flashbacks, he or she could get a schedular disability rating for both PTSD and substance use disorder because the PTSD is causing the substance use disorder. Substance use disorder itself cannot be rated as its own condition, but must instead have its severity evaluated under the same rating schedule for whatever service-connected condition caused it. In the case of the veteran with PTSD, this would mean both the PTSD and substance use disorder would be evaluated under 38 CFR § 4.130.

Due to this unique rating system for substance use disorders, the most important evidence a veteran can provide for their claim is medical and service personnel records. Medical records are important because they can (1) establish a medical nexus between the substance use disorder and the service connected impairment, (2) provide information on the severity of the substance use disorder and its impact on the veteran’s life, and (3) show the VA that symptoms of the substance use disorder or its causal condition began presenting in service. Service personnel records are important because they can provide the VA with information about the veterans activities in service. If the veteran was involved in any incidents that could indicate intoxication or the signs of early substance use disorder, it can show the VA that his or her condition is related to his or her military service.

Help With Your Substance Use Disorder Claim

If you are a veteran with substance use disorder who is seeking assistance with your VA claim, our veterans disability attorneys are ready to help. Please contact our office today for a free claim evaluation. We are experienced in getting veterans with substance use disorders the compensation they deserve.