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Drug and Alcohol Use in Disability Cases: Can I Win?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | SSD - Social Security Disability |

SSA rules clearly state: a claimant “shall not be considered to be disabled if alcoholism or drug addiction would be “material” to the finding of disability”.

What is “material”? This means you must prove that IN THE ABSENCE of drugs or alcohol, your other medical or mental health conditions would STILL disable you. A period of abstinence does NOT have to be shown; however, it remains a very helpful piece of evidence in support of your claim if you can show periods of sobriety and efforts and getting treatment.

If your other impairments were created or caused by your drug or alcohol use, but those other impairments are now irreversible or could not improve enough to make you healthy enough to work again, the drug/alcohol use will NOT be material and will not result in denial of your claim. Examples of this are peripheral neuropathy, permanent encephalopathy, cirrhosis of the liver, substance-induced dementia, and others.

If your other impairments are related to mental health conditions, drug/alcohol use is evaluated in much the same way. However, SSA says “We do not know of any research data that we can use to predict reliably that any given claimant’s co-occurring mental disorder would improve, or the extent to which it would improve, if the claimant were to stop using drugs or alcohol.” This means that SSA will look at any evidence in the record that shows the mental health disorders are NOT disabling without use of drugs/alcohol.

Many people misunderstand these rules and find it unfair that SSA would give benefits to someone that person feels is an alcoholic or drug abuser. A lot of considerations go into applying these drug and alcohol rules, making the decisions confusing to many. This makes it even more important to reach out to an experienced attorney if your case involves these issues!



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