Is Alcoholism Considered A Disability?

Oftentimes, clients or potential clients want to know whether alcoholism and other forms of addiction are medical conditions for which disability benefits are allowed. If the condition is severe, why would people suffering from it not be entitled to the same kinds of assistance as those suffering from other severe medical conditions?

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how the law works in cases of disability for alcoholism. The law may seem clear, but you could still be qualified for disability benefits because of alcohol and drug addiction.

The SSA administers the law very strictly. To receive benefits, the SSA must conclude that a claimant:

  • is disabled, and
  • that drug abuse or alcoholism is not a contributing factor material to a claimant’s disability determination

If substance abuse is a material factor, the claimant is unlikely to be found disabled and will not receive SSA disability benefits. This is frequently very difficult for a claimant to accept. It is also challenging for an attorney who has examined the evidence, listened to the claimant’s story, and knows that the SSA will deny benefits.

The SSA must apply several laws, rules, and procedures when determining entitlement to disability benefits. These aspects often do not work in the claimant’s favor when the claimant is an alcoholic or addict.

As experienced disability attorneys, we understand the struggles that a person seeking SSI for alcoholism and other addictions will face. The law views each claimant’s case objectively through the application of formal laws, rules, and processes. Even the most emotional addiction case may be denied for benefits if the law does not apply in your favor.

Getting Disability For Alcoholism?

Can You Get Disability For Alcoholism?

To receive benefits, you must demonstrate that you would still be disabled even if you quit alcohol and drugs. In other words, if ending substance abuse ends your disability, then you would not qualify for benefits. Many people who suffer from addiction have separate disabling conditions that are unrelated to addiction. If those other problems persist such that disability continues even if the individual gets sober, then you may be able to establish entitlement to disability benefits.

Again, the law does not account for how difficult addiction may be or how long it may take to get sober. The disability process looks at only whether a person is disabled and how addiction contributes to that disability. Everything else is a secondary issue.

This is why there are programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These organizations help people to stay clean by offering various support structures. If a claimant can manage their disability by attending AA or NA, then they should not require SSA disability benefits, but if they have disabling conditions that remain, disability benefits may be available.

When there are other impairments but the claimant’s alcohol or addiction is a factor, then the SSA’s decision process becomes more complicated. Many people seeking social security disability for alcoholism have physical or mental impairments in addition to drug or alcohol abuse. Many people do not follow a doctor’s advice and self-medicate with drugs or alcohol instead.  This confluence of issues will affect your claim for benefits.

Other Physical and Mental Impairments

For instance, a claimant may have a severe back impairment. To mask the pain, the claimant abuses alcohol. Even if the claimant stops drinking, the back disability remains. A case like this may be more likely to be approved for benefits.

Mental impairments are more difficult. This is because substance abuse makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose you properly. After all, alcohol and drugs can influence other mental health issues that are extremely difficult to disentwine.  Many psychiatrists and psychologists may consider your primary problem to be addiction-related. They may have to examine you after a period of sobriety before reaching an informed opinion.  This makes SSA’s decision process more complicated.

Some cases can still be won based on the doctor’s opinion that your mental condition would be disabling whether or not you are sober. These cases are quite complicated and typically require a long-standing relationship with your doctor.

The keyword to remember in a benefits determination is material. The SSA will evaluate which physical and mental limitations would remain if use of drugs or alcohol ceased.  Then, they determine whether any or all of the remaining limitations would be disabling.  This can become complicated.  For instance, if a person has cirrhosis of the liver, the SSA may deny benefits because if you were to stop drinking alcohol and stop abusing drugs, your liver condition would stabilize. However, if your liver was no longer functioning and quitting alcohol or drugs would not heal it, you may still be determined entitled to SSA benefits even though alcohol or drug abuse contributed to failed liver function  This is because, while addiction contributed to your condition, it is not material to its current state because the liver failure would remain in the absence of those substances.

In such a case, the SSA may quickly approve you for benefits. Again, there are many types of cases that can be argued one way or the other. Several factors must be considered in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and procedures.

If you believe you qualify for benefits due to addiction, do not delay contacting Khattar Law, LLC today. The law is not as clear cut as it seems and you may be able to establish entitlement to these important benefits.

Book your first free consultation with our reputable lawyers. We will evaluate your case and let you know your chances of receiving disability benefits.