There’s nothing simple about applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. It can be a daunting process and many applications are initially rejected, for any number of reasons. If you have a history of drug abuse or alcoholism, it’s natural to wonder how they will affect your application.
Drug and alcohol determination
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews the suitability of an SSD application, they will first look to see if the disability qualifies. If it does, the applicant will generally be approved for benefits. Sometimes, however, the SSA will receive information that the applicant has a history of drug or alcohol use. The information may come from medical records or from the applicant themselves. If the evidence amounts to addiction or alcoholism, the SSA will conduct further inquiry.
Known as a drug and alcohol determination, the SSA will look to see how the drug or alcohol usage impacts the existing disability. The key question they’ll ask is this – is the alcoholism or addiction a material factor contributing to the disability? In other words, if the applicant stopped using the alcohol or drugs, would the disability still exist? If the disability would cease along with the drugs or alcohol, they are a material factor and benefits will likely be denied. If the disability would persist anyway, benefits will likely be approved.
It’s important to understand that the SSA is only concerned with present addiction or alcoholism. Past usage is irrelevant, even if it directly caused the current disability. Take an alcoholic, for instance, whose usage damaged their liver and left them disabled. The disability will not go away, regardless of when the alcohol was used.