If you’re one of the millions of Americans with an alcohol and/or drug issue, you may be concerned that it can be used against you if you need to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits when a medical condition has left you unable to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t “penalize” people for their substance abuse problem by denying them benefits. A substance abuse problem may or may not be relevant to the decision to approve or deny an SSDI application.
First, it’s important to understand that alcoholism and drug addiction themselves are not qualifying conditions for SSDI. However, diseases that can be caused by substance abuse, like chronic liver disease, may qualify a person for benefits if they are so serious that they prevent them from working.
Is the substance abuse material to the medical condition?
Approval depends on whether the condition (liver disease or any other qualifying condition) would improve enough that a person could work if they stopped using alcohol and/or drugs. If that’s the case, then disability examiners and medical professionals at the SSA would consider the substance abuse “material” to the disabling condition.
If a person’s qualifying condition is so far advanced and irreversible that even if they stopped using the substance to which they’re addicted, they may be able to qualify for benefits. However, the SSA can require a person to get treatment for their addiction in order to get benefits. They may also provide benefits to a representative payee rather than to the recipient themselves if there’s concern about their ability to handle them responsibly.
Don’t assume that your abuse of drugs and/or alcohol will prevent you from getting SSDI – or that you can somehow leave out this information. The SSA reviews applications carefully, so it very likely will discover the truth. Your best course of action is to get information from reliable sources and experienced legal guidance for your claim.