SSD: what if I have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2022 | social security disability

Applying for Social Security Disability can be a daunting process and you’ll likely have many questions. How long will it take? What do I have to disclose? Will I be approved or rejected? And for someone who has used alcohol or drugs, they may be concerned what effect that will have on their application.

Drug addiction or alcohol determination

For every application for Social Security Disability (SSD), the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes its initial determination as to whether the applicant suffers from a qualifying disability. If they do, benefits will most likely be awarded. However, sometimes during the application process, the SAA discovers that the applicant has a history of drug or alcohol abuse. The SSA may get this information from medical records, the applicant themselves or another source.

Upon receipt of the information, the SSA undertakes what is referred to as a drug addiction or alcoholism determination. During this inquiry, the SSA seeks to determine whether the drug or alcohol usage is a factor which materially affects the applicant’s disability. It does this by answering the following question – if the applicant stops using the drugs or alcohol, will the disability persist? If the disability remains, the drugs or alcohol are not a material factor and benefits can still be awarded. If the disability would go away, the drugs or alcohol is a material contributing factor and benefits will not be awarded.

It’s important to note that the determination is only concerned with present usage of alcohol or drugs – past usage is irrelevant, even if it directly caused the current disability. For instance, if an applicant damaged their liver due to previous alcoholism, the liver damage is not going away, regardless of the alcoholism. It may have been the primary cause of the existing disability but it is not a material factor for the purpose of the determination.