Does drug addiction or alcoholism ruin my chances for SSDI?

Many people are reluctant to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to feel like they’re taking a handout; other times it’s due to the rigorous nature of the application process. You may even have specific concerns about your eligibility due past or present drug or alcohol usage, but that is not necessarily a bar to receiving benefits.

The drug addiction or alcoholism (DAA) review

When you initially apply for SSDI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will analyze your case to determine if you have a disability which qualifies for benefits. If you have such a disability, you’ll likely be approved. But sometimes, while the SSA is looking at your application, they will also discover evidence of alcoholism or substance abuse. The information may come from medical records or it could be self-reported by you.

Once discovered, the SSA will then conduct a DAA review. What they’re looking for is the impact your DAA has on your existing disability – the SSA wants to know whether your DAA is a material contributing factor to the disability. In other words, if an applicant immediately stopped using the drugs or alcohol, would the disability persist or would it go away? If the disability would remain, then the DAA is not a material contributing factor and the applicant is still eligible for benefits.

It’s important to note that, even if the DAA directly caused the current disability, it does not automatically preclude benefit eligibility. For example, alcoholism can cause liver disfunction and the liver disfunction could be the basis for the SSDI application. But whether the applicant stopped using alcohol years ago or stopped today, the liver disfunction would still remain and the applicant would be eligible for SSDI benefits.