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Social Security Administration Disability Benefits, Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

How does drug abuse and alcoholism factor into the Social Security Administration disability decision?

Many Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants are either drug addicts, alcoholics or recovering from a serious drug or alcohol addiction and they are wondering whether the drug and alcohol addiction is considered a disability, and if it is not, how will the Social Security Administration make their disability determination. Does the Social Security Administration automatically deny all claims from drug and alcohol addiction applicants?

According to the Social Security Administration, if you have history of drug abuse or alcoholism the Social Security Administration must determine whether the abuse is a contributing factor which they consider material to your impairment.

According to the Social Security Administration, “Drug addictions or alcoholism cannot be considered a "disability" on the basis of that diagnosis alone; on the other hand, a diagnosis of drug addiction or alcoholism should not have an effect on a Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance evaluation that is adverse to the applicant. Drug addicts and alcoholics are subject to all the ills that may affect any other applicant. Drug addiction and alcoholism are diagnostic terms; they do not denote impairment value or severity. It is necessary to evaluate the severity of the impairment which may be associated with, manifested by, result from, or coexist with these diagnoses.”

Determining a Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability claimant is disabled

The Social Security Administration uses a five step sequential evaluation process to determine if you are disabled. The most basic steps are listed below.

  1. Are you performing substantial gainful activity? Claimants who are working too much are automatically denied disability benefits.

  2. Is your disability or condition "severe"? Claimants who do not have a severe condition are automatically denied Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.

  3. Is your condition found in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments?

  4. Can you perform your current job or any past relevant work?

  5. Can you retrain any other type of new work?

Determining disability for alcoholism and drug addictions

If you are determined disabled by the Social Security Administration, after they complete the “normal” five step sequential evaluation process if you are dependent on drugs or alcohol, they will add an additional sixth step.

  1. Would your disabilities continue to exist if the if substance-abuse issues were gone? If the answer is no, Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits will be denied. If the disability would persist, regardless of your addiction, benefits will be approved.

Proving step six in the sequential evaluation process can be tough for addicts. Contact a disability lawyer if you need more information.

According to the SSA, the decision will depend on “the severityof the impairment, as properly documented by the required medical findings, and, for appropriate cases, the limitation of function imposed on the applicant by the impairment in conjunction with applicable vocational factors. An individual may be a drug addict or an alcoholic and not be disabled if the evidence fails to show inability to engage in substantial gainful activity.”

Treatment and Payment Requirements for alcoholism and drug addictions

If the Social Security Administration determines you are disabled due to a disability but you have an addiction issue, you must undergo and complete an addiction-treatment program prescribed by a medical professional.  A representative will also receive your Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and help you manage your money by assigning you a representative payee.
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