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Will past drug or alcohol abuse prevent me from getting SSD?

Jul 15, 2022 |

Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) can be a nerve-wracking process. The chances that your initial application will be denied are high and you may be worried about any number of factors that may result in rejection. Alcohol and drug usage are a common concern among applicants – what impact will it have on your eligibility?

Drug addiction and alcoholism determination

Upon application for SSD, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will do an initial review to determine eligibility. Generally, if the applicant has a qualifying disability, they will be approved for benefits. However, sometimes during a review, the SSA will find evidence of past drug addiction or alcoholism. This may come from medical records or from the applicant’s own statements.

Once aware of the past abuse, the SSA will conduct a second review, known as a drug addiction and alcoholism determination. The purpose of this review is to determine whether addiction or alcoholism is a contributing material factor to the current disability.

Contributing material factor

The key question is not if addiction or alcoholism may have caused the disability. Rather, the SSA wants to know if current abuse is contributing to the disability as it exists at the time of application. In other words, if the applicant stopped using the drug or alcohol immediately, would the disability persist? If the disability would remain, drugs or alcohol are not a contributing material factor and the applicant can receive benefits.

By way of example, let’s say the applicant’s disability is failed liver function due to alcoholism. Even if the applicant stopped drinking entirely, the disability would not go away. Therefore, it is not considered a contributing material factor for purposes of eligibility.

Applying for benefits or appealing a denial of benefits can be a difficult process. To ensure you get the best chance of being approved, seek the assistance of a professional who is experienced in handling Social Security Disability claims.