Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Social Security Disability
Many claimants are surprised to discover how deeply a disability examiner investigates into their lives. Examiners will often look into a claimant's daily activities, talk to family and friends, and scrutinize personal records. As one might suspect, alcohol and/or drug abuse is one finding that can significantly change the dynamic of your case. Substance abuse does not necessarily preclude applicants from receiving benefits, but it can certainly hamper a claimant's case. Since drug and alcohol abuse are not listed on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) List of Impairments, sufferers must have a disability apart from their substance abuse. The key factor when considering drug/alcohol abuse in a disability case is whether the abuse is material to the case. When abuse is material to a disability case, the case can easily be denied. If it is immaterial, that means that the substance abuse is not a major factor in the claimant's disability and thus, their claim is more likely to be approved. Substance abuse may be material to the case when… • The claimant's disability was sparked by substance abuse • Any disability would clear up without substance abuse • Abuse of alcohol or drugs is constant, with no periods of sobriety Substance abuse may be considered immaterial when… • Claimant would be disabled even without the substance abuse • During periods of sobriety the claimant is still disabled • Substance abuse is secondary to a completely separate disabling condition Drug and alcohol abuse can be discovered in a variety of ways, including notes (recent or not) from the claimant's medical files. If your physician made a note on one of your charts about admitted or suspected substance abuse, this note can easily come to light during your case. Have your disability attorney review your medical files alongside you to avoid any unwelcome bombshells.