Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a complicated process. In order to qualify, an applicant may need to provide evidence of many things, including past exams and evaluations, medications, diagnoses and physicians’ opinions. One question that often comes up is whether a past or present addiction can affect the benefits determination.
Is the addiction a contributing factor?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) can deny an applicant SSDI benefits based on the past or present use of drugs or alcohol, but this isn’t always the case. It depends on the relationship between the disability and the drugs or alcohol.
The SSA will perform a drug and alcohol determination, primarily asking the following question – how much does the addiction affect the existence of the disability? Fundamentally, what the SSA wants to know is if the disability would still exist if the applicant stopped using the drugs or alcohol.
If the SSA determines the applicant would no longer fit their requirements for being disabled, in the absence of the drugs or alcohol, they will likely deny benefits. However, if they conclude the applicant would still be disabled, even without the drugs or alcohol, they will grant benefits.
The fact that alcohol or drugs actually caused the disability does not necessarily mean the applicant will be denied benefits. This is different from what the SSA is asking. For example, if an applicant drank alcohol for years, which damaged their liver, the liver damage could form the basis for disability benefits. If the damage was extensive and they would still be disabled even if they stopped drinking immediately, the SSA could conclude that alcohol is not a contributing factor for the purpose of granting benefits.