Does Alcohol or Drug Use Affect Your Claim for Social Security Disability?

Whether drug or alcohol use will affect your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits depends on whether it contributes to your disabling medical condition. If your drug or alcohol abuse is deemed a material contributing factor to a medical impairment, your claim will be denied.

SSA determines materiality by asking these questions: Is your medical condition which you allege is disabling exacerbated or caused by your use of alcohol or drugs? Would your medical condition improve enough not to be disabling if you were to stop using drugs or alcohol? If the answer to these questions is yes, your drug or alcohol use will be considered material to the alleged impairment, and your disability claim will be denied.

For example, an individual files a claim alleging he is disabled due to a seizure disorder. The medical records show that the individual is a chronic drinker. If SSA thinks that the seizure condition would medically improve if he stopped drinking, then the substance abuse would be found material to his seizure disorder, and his claim would be denied.

Another example is chronic liver disease caused by long term substance abuse. It doesn't matter whether past alcohol abuse actually caused your liver disease. What matters is whether or not substance abuse is currently material or immaterial to your condition.

Is it material? If your condition would improve or disappear if you stopped using alcohol, then it is material, and your case will be denied. If your liver damage is so pronounced that stopping alcohol would make no difference to your condition, then the substance abuse would be considered immaterial to your case.

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