Can You Receive Disability If You Suffer From Alcoholism or Drug Addiction?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Across the United States, many people are grappling with alcoholism or drug addiction. It can take over a person’s life. It can destroy a person’s relationships. It can make it almost impossible to retain gainful employment. It can have debilitating health consequences. Does this mean it can be considered a disability for purposes of SSA disability benefits? Let us discuss this in more detail here.

Can You Receive Disability If You Suffer From Alcoholism or Drug Addiction?

The laws surrounding drug and alcohol addiction’s place in SSA benefits have changed over the years. Did you know that, previously, those with qualifying drug addiction or alcoholism could qualify for disability benefits based on the dependency? It is true. If the dependency prevented them from working, they could be granted access to disability benefits. As of 1996, however, the SSA eliminated the ability of applicants to be granted benefits based on drug or alcohol addiction.

In 1996, there was a significant amendment to the Social Security Act. The amendment eliminated eligibility for disability benefits that were based on drug or alcohol addiction. As it stands now, an individual will not be approved for disability benefits if drug or alcohol addiction is a “material factor” in his or her disability case. Drug addiction or alcoholism will be considered to be a material factor to a disability if it is the central reason a person is unable to retain gainful employment.

Are the disabling physical or mental conditions you have been experiencing due to alcoholism or drug abuse? It is likely that you will be unable to receive disability benefits. Should you have sustained severe, disabling damage that has been the result of your drug abuse or alcoholism, however, you can be deemed disabled for disability benefits. For example, should alcoholism have led to your liver failing and that fact will not change even if you quit drinking today, then you will likely be considered disabled for disability purposes.  This is because when drug or alcohol abuse is found to be secondary to a disabling medical condition, the drug or alcohol abuse element will not be enough to be considered a material part of the claim. The condition is already disabling in and of itself, separate from any struggles a person may have with drug abuse or alcoholism.

You will not be approved for disability benefits if you are claim drug addiction or alcohol dependency as your disability You will not be approved for disability benefits if drug or alcohol addiction is a material factor in your disability claim. If you suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, however, this will not be an automatic bar to a disability benefits claim. A person can both suffer from alcoholism and debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer. With the cancer being the disabling condition, the other substance abuse struggles will not prevent the person from having a disability claims application approved.

Riverside Disability Attorney

The nuances of the disability application policies and procedures can seem endless and be incredibly frustrating. Let Disability Advocates help you through the benefits application process. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.