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How does substance abuse affect an SSDI claim?

Drug addiction and alcohol dependency are serious issues for a lot of people, and medical science acknowledges that they are diseases. However, that’s not how the Social Security Administration (SSA) views the situation when you file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

While SSA used to award benefits based on severe addiction or alcoholism alone, that has changed. Today, while substance abuse problems won’t automatically get your claim denied, they can complicate it.

SSA will take a hard look at the role substance abuse has played in your condition

Essentially, under SSA’s current rules, the agency has to make a special determination on claims that involve substance abuse and dependency issues. To still qualify for benefits you have to show one of two things:

  • You have discontinued the use of drugs and alcohol and still have a condition that is severe enough to qualify as a disability, or
  • You would still meet the agency’s definition of disabled even if you were to discontinue the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

If either of those things is true, your claim can be approved. This is true even if you suffer from a disability that is a by-product of your former substance abuse. For example, certain mental disorders, seizures, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and more are heavily connected to addiction and alcoholism, but they don’t go away when the substance abuse stops.

Because there’s an extra layer of scrutiny on any disability claim where substance abuse is or was an issue in the applicant’s life, you may want to consider seeking early legal guidance if this situation applies to you.