Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Social Security Disability Benefits

A Common Myth about Drug & Alcohol Abuse in Social Security Disability Cases

The Social Security Administration’s hearing office is packed daily with claimants who are anxiously awaiting their hearings. It’s close quarters in those buildings, so I couldn’t help but overhear a claimant who was talking about his “disabilities” to another claimant the other day. I heard him exclaim, “I’ a drug addict, so I know I will get Social Security disability right away.” This is a myth that many people unfortunately believe.

What this gentleman does not know is that drug and/or alcohol abuse in itself is not a disabling condition under the Social Security Act. In fact, drug or alcohol abuse can actually HARM your case more than help it.

The Social Security law that addresses this issue basically says that a person’s conditions must render them disabled regardless of drug or alcohol use. There are variances on this rule. For instance, if a person has mental impairments but only becomes symptomatic while they are abusing drugs and alcohol, their case is in jeopardy of losing. However, if another person has mental impairments and has the same level of depression regardless of the drug or alcohol use, their case might not be as adversely affected as the former example. In fact, sometimes people tend to engage in substance abuse to self-medicate or because they have a severe condition to begin with. But either way you cut it, Social Security Judges do not look favorably upon those who actively engage in drug or alcohol abuse.

You can help yourself by making sure that your attorney and doctors are all aware of any substance abuse problems you may have. You should then become active in drug/alcohol cessation programs. The bottom line is that people should refrain from abusing drugs so alcohol so they have the best chance of obtaining, and keeping, Social Security disability benefits

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