How Does the Use of Alcohol or Drugs Affect SSDI Eligibility?

April 12, 2018

An applicant’s right to Social Security Disability depends on whether the use of alcohol or drugs contributes to their disabling medical condition. If the use of drink or substance is a material contributing factor, then eligibility will be denied. What’s material depends on whether the alcohol/drug use makes your problem worse, or directly causes your impairment. In other words, if you stopped drinking or using drugs, would you condition go away or improve to the point that you could work?

Normally, an evaluation test is used to determine the answer to the materiality question. The test is typically conducted by a doctor at the time of the initial application. The doctor will then give his/her medical opinion. The Social Security Administration will also seek an opinion from your treating doctor as to whether you have an alcohol or addiction problem and what would happen to your ability to work if the addiction ended. On appeal to a hearing judge, the Philadelphia SSDI lawyers at Larry Pitt and Associates work with treating and independent medical physicians to verify that you would still be disabled if your stopped drinking liquor or using drugs.

The analysis of materiality can be complicated. Generally, the original reason for your medical problem isn’t material – for example, that prior drinking caused liver disease. The focus is on our current use of alcohol or drugs. Many conditions such as cancer would not be improved if the applicant stopped drinking or doing drugs. You might live a little longer but ceasing the use of the substances won’t mean you can work again.

The nature of your disability is an important factor. Applicants who claim they can’t work because of mental health problems may face more challenges than if their claim is based on physical problems such as heart disease. Most SSA psychiatrists are likely to find that alcohol or drug use is contributing to mental health problems. Our Philadelphia SSDI attorneys work with the psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health care counselors to determine whether there are independent causes for an applicant’s anxiety, depression, and emotional difficulties

How is payment made if the applicant is dependent on alcohol or drugs?

If the Social Security Administration thinks you are still able to control your alcohol or drug use, then SSA will require that that the applicant attend a substance abuse problem. SSA will also require that the applicant designate a payee who can manage your benefit checks so that you don’t spend them on alcohol or drugs. The payee should be a responsible family member or friend. It can also be an organization that qualifies.

SSDI eligibility is based on your inability to work at substantial gainful activity for at least one year. The success of most claims depends on an experienced Philadelphia worker’s compensation lawyer working with your treating doctors to fully understand your health issues. To speak with an experienced SSDI attorney now, please call Larry Pitt & Associates at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our contact form to arrange a free consultation. We handle Disability claims across eastern Pennsylvania including Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia.