Social Security Disability
Can you get Social Security Disability if you’ve used Alcohol or Drugs?
Certainly. It all depends on the extent of the use, as well as its recency.
It’s not possible at this point in time to receive social security disability benefits based solely on addiction.
But whether such use will affect, or not affect, a claimant’s eligibility for benefits hinges on something called materiality. That is, if a claimant’s drug or alcohol abuse is deemed material to a case, that case will not win.
Let’s throw out a example. A claimant applies for social security disability based on liver dysfunction and hepatitis. The same claimant has a history of alcohol abuse, some of it recent. Will the alcohol abuse harm the claimant’s disability case? It depends on whether or not it is material or immaterial to his condition.
If the claimant’s liver damage is so pronounced that ceasing alcohol use completely would make no difference to the claimant’s medical condition, then alcohol abuse would be considered immaterial to the case. In other words, irrelevant.
If, however, ceasing the use of alcohol would result in medical improvement, alcohol abuse would be deemed material to the disability case, and the claim would be denied.
The reasoning is easy enough to understand. Social Security will not pay benefits to claimants whose disabling conditions are brought on, and exacerbated by, drug and alcohol abuse.
Claimants for social security disability who have a history of abuse but who are not currently using substances would be advised to carefully review their medical records before they file for disability.
Often, medical doctors and mental health professionals will indicate “suspected use” in their treatment notes. Such indications, proven or otherwise, can have a damaging effect on a disability claim.
Claimants whose disabling conditions are psychiatric in nature (e.g., depression, anxiety, etc) should especially heed this since mental cases are more likely to be denied when substance abuse is involved.