VA Disability and Alcoholism
What is Alcoholism?
Alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as alcoholism, is a pattern of alcohol use that invokes problems controlling drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol when it causes problem, having to drink more to get the same effect, and having withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. Alcoholism also includes binge drinking, a pattern of drinking excessive amounts in a short amount of time. Symptoms of alcoholism can range from mild to severe and may include the following:
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems
- Giving p or reducing social and work activities/hobbies
- Using alcohol is situations when it’s not safe, such as when driving
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect, or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you do not drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms
What does the VA Define as Alcohol Abuse?
According to the VA, alcohol abuse is “the use of alcoholic beverages over time, or such excessive use at any one time, sufficient to cause disability or death of the user.” It is important to note, consuming an alcoholic beverage does not mean alcohol abuse. Instead, alcohol abuse is defined by both the length of time that the behavior continues and whether the behavior is done in excess.
How to Prevalent is Alcohol Abuse Among Veterans?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 7.1% of all U.S. veterans met the criteria for substance abuse disorder between 2004 and 2006.
Veterans encounter psychological stress or physiological ailments as a result of their service. Alcoholism can be influenced my many factors, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Getting PTSD increases the risk of a substance abuse problem, specifically, over 20% of veterans with PTSD have a substance abuse disorder and nearly 1 out of 3 veterans seeking substance abuse disorder treatment also have PTSD.
Can You be Service Connected for Alcoholism?
Veterans cannot be directly service connected for alcoholism, but they can be service connected on a secondary basis for conditions that come from alcoholism when the conditions is due to a service-connected condition.
An example is if a veteran is service-connected for PTSD and uses alcohol to cope with their symptoms. As a result of this alcohol use, the veteran is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. The veteran may be able to get service-connection compensation for the cirrhosis of the liver on a secondary basis. The alcoholism would serve as an intermediate step between the PTSD and cirrhosis.
It is important to note that veterans can only receive disability ratings for alcohol-related conditions as long as the alcoholism was not a product of the veteran’s own “willful misconduct.” The VA defines willful misconduct as “an act involving conscious wrongdoing or known prohibited action.” The VA must prove by a “preponderance of evidence” that the cause of the veteran’s condition is in line with the definition provided above.
VA Services Available for Alcoholism Treatment
The VA offers many different services to veterans struggling with substance abuse. This includes treatment options such as medication, therapy, and treatment of conditions such as PTSD.
Medication options for these veterans include:
- Medically managed detoxification to stop substance use safely, and services to stabilize
- Drug substitution therapies and medicines to lessen cravings
- Nicotine replacement therapy or medications
Counseling or therapy options include:
- Short-term outpatient counseling
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Marriage and family counseling
- Self-help groups
- Residential care
- Continuing care and relapse prevention
- Program for veterans with specific needs (i.e. homeless veterans)
Bosley & Bratch have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you or a loved one served, and suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse, we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (727) 274-9227 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.