Can Drug or Alcohol Use Affect My Ability to Obtain Benefits?

November 26, 2019
Dayes Law Firm

Being disabled can take a physical, emotional and financial toll on a person, causing some people to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief or to escape. However, drug or alcohol use can sometimes stand as a barrier between claimants and their ability to receive benefits.

Our Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyers discuss how drug or alcohol use may affect your disability claim. If your claim was denied because of these factors, we may be able to help you appeal the decision by showing that you are disabled despite your alcohol or drug use.

How Addiction Affects a Disability Claim

The Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot refuse to review a disability claim simply because a person has a history of addiction. However, in some cases, the continuing addiction and use of drugs or alcohol can be grounds to deny a claim.

Alcohol and drug use can lead to several serious medical conditions and negatively impact a person’s health. It can cause or contribute to liver failure, heart disease, personality disorders and many other health issues. However, many claimants have medical conditions that are independent of their substance use.

The SSA will review your claim and determine the impact your addiction has on your medical condition.

Ways the SSA Assesses Drug and Alcohol Use

The SSA assesses drug and alcohol use by considering the following questions:

Is the Substance a Contributing Factor to Your Condition?

The primary question that the SSA will ask is whether the substance or alcohol use is a contributing factor to the claimant’s alleged disability. If it is not, this information need not be considered.

However, if the SSA determines that your drug or alcohol use is a contributing factor to your condition, your claim will be denied. This is determined by looking at the information:

  • Whether your disabling condition was caused by your alcohol or drug use
  • Whether your disabling condition is made worse by alcohol or drug use
  • Whether your disabling condition would improve enough so that you are no longer disabled if you stopped using drugs or alcohol

Will Your Condition Improve Without the Substance?

The SSA will evaluate whether your condition would improve if you stopped using the substance or alcohol. This includes reviewing your medical records to see if there is a connection between your drug or alcohol use and your medical condition.

For example, it may review hospital records that show that you have seizures after using drugs or alcohol. In this situation, the claims examiner will likely determine that your condition would medically improve if you ceased using drugs or alcohol and use this as a basis to deny your claim.

However, if you would still have seizures to the same extent and severity even if you stopped using drugs or alcohol, you may still be eligible for benefits.

Who Decides If Your Condition Would Improve by Quitting?

After submitting an application for disability benefits, a medical consultant who works for Disability Determination Services will help decide whether quitting drugs or alcohol would improve your condition. This person must determine whether you would still have disabling impairments if you stopped using drugs or alcohol. This is the same person who makes your disability determination.

Additionally, the SSA might ask your treating physician if you have a drug or alcohol problem and what the likely effect would be if you ceased using these substances and how it would impact your medical condition.

What if the Substance Caused Your Condition?

Alcohol or drug use can cause many medical conditions, such as liver disease or hepatitis. Whether or not the substance caused your condition, the SSA must still evaluate your claim. Even if your condition was caused by alcohol or drug abuse, you may still be eligible for disability benefits.

Contact Us for Help With Your Disability Claim

It is important that you work with a disability lawyer who understands what can affect your claim and what must be established to show that your condition is independent of your alcohol or drug use.

At Dayes Law Firm, we have have helped many claimants obtain benefits for their disability. We are prepared to assist you through the application process or filing an appeal, if necessary. We charge no upfront fees and only get paid if your claim is successful.

Contact us today at 1-800-503-2000 to schedule a free consultation.