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Successfully Addressing the Materiality of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism in Hearings, at the Appeals Council and in Federal Court


CLE Information May 2021

This course was approved for NOSSCR's Spring 2021 Virtual Conference. It is eligible for On-Demand credit, please check with karyn.reffsin@nosscr.org if you have questions about your states eligibility or check with your Bar Association for their rules and regulations.


In cases involving drug and alcohol addiction (DAA), ALJs will frequently deny the claim on the basis that that DAA is material to the finding of disability. While some practitioners may be hesitant to take on such cases, the evidentiary bar set by SSR 13-2p is high in that it generally requires affirmative evidence of materiality independent of a claimant’s other impairments. We will review SSR 13-2p and the applicable case law and discuss how to preserve the hearing record for appeal and/or get favorable outcomes at ALJ hearings, as well as various lines of direct examination of the client and cross-examination of the medical expert. Finally, we will review successful arguments to reverse unfavorable ALJ materiality determinations at the AC level and in federal court.

Nyla Moujaes, Attorney

Nyla T. Moujaes - has been committed to advancing access to income and health insurance for people with disabilities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years.  Prior to becoming Director of DEI and Social Impact, she served as a Managing Attorney at Homeless Action Center in Alameda County, California.  As Managing Attorney, she managed a caseload of District Court appeals and co-supervised a team of 50 staff attorneys, legal advocates and volunteers who represent over 2,000 clients in their claims for public disability benefits, including SSI/SSDI, CAPI, SDI, Medi-Cal, and Medicare. Nyla earned her Juris Doctor from Golden Gate University School of Law after receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arizona.  

David Waggoner, Esq.

David Waggoner - is an Appellate Attorney at Homeless Action Center in Alameda County, California. David has successfully represented over 100 clients at disability hearings and has successfully litigated 25 federal court appeals in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. David has specialized in taking on the most challenging cases, especially clients with co-occurring mental illness and addiction. When not litigating his own cases in federal court, David trains attorneys on appellate advocacy as well as representing clients with co-occurring substance use and mental illness.


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