Can you get Social Security Disability when your disability is caused by drug addiction or alcoholism? Most people are not sure and you could make a guess that the answer is no. In a general sense, if that is the only impairment, that guess would be correct, but it’s really not that simple. While having a disabling condition caused by drug or alcohol addiction makes it harder to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, it is not impossible to get them. True, even these terms for the diseases are outdated, but the Social Security Administration continues to use them in its rulings, because those terms are still used in the Social Security Act. If the uses of these substances are “material” to the disability, then no benefits are awarded. “Material” means that a person would not meet the Administration’s definition of disability absent the use of drugs or alcohol, and the condition would improve to the point of non-disability if the use would stop.
There are a couple of common situations where you can still qualify for Social Security Disability when drugs or alcohol are leading to the determination of disability. One of these is where the person seeking benefits (the “claimant”) has other disabling conditions separate and apart from the disabling condition caused by the use of drugs and alcohol. When this is the case, those other conditions make the claimant eligible for benefits, so the Administration never has to go into the drug or alcohol questions to reach its decision that the claimant is disabled.
The second most common situation is where the claimant has a drug or alcohol disability and other severe conditions, and would not be considered disabled under the Administration’s rules, if the claimant was not using drugs or alcohol. When this is the case, the Administration must go into some extra steps that it would not consider, if drugs or alcohol were not in the picture. Essentially, the question becomes whether the claimant’s drug and alcohol disability would improve if the claimant stopped using. If it would improve to the point where the claimant is no longer disabled, then the claimant does not qualify for benefits. However, if the condition is permanent or would not improve to the point where the claimant is not disabled when the use is stopped, then the claimant can be eligible for benefits. The claimant must prove these things and to do so, abstinence and a medical opinion are suggested. This is a complicated matter and likely cannot be handled by a claimant on his own.
If you have questions about whether you might qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, contact our office for a free consultation.