When someone suffers a debilitating injury or illness, it’s all too easy to become addicted to pain medication. A serious addiction can worsen a condition or lead to additional health issues. Sometimes, people who already have a substance abuse issue involving drugs and/or alcohol can suffer a disabling condition that prevents them from working.
Can a substance abuse problem keep someone from qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a qualifying condition? It’s not a simple yes or no answer.
What factors will be considered?
It’s important to understand that substance abuse is not a qualifying condition for either SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s disability examiners and medical professionals involved in the application and approval will determine whether the substance abuse is “material” to the qualifying condition.
For example, if a person’s excessive alcohol use is worsening that condition or preventing it from improving enough that a person could resume working, it would be deemed material and their SSDI application would likely be denied.
If the substance abuse is unrelated to the qualifying condition and getting clean would have little or no effect on it, there’s a better chance of approval. However, a person may be required to get treatment for their drug and/or alcohol issue to get benefits. The SSA might also approve benefits if a qualifying condition isn’t reversible even if a person got their substance abuse issue under control.
Note that if someone dealing with a substance abuse issue is approved for benefits, they might have to be paid to a representative payee rather than directly to the beneficiary. A representative payee can be a family member, legal guardian, attorney or even a care facility or other organization. It’s crucial to designate a payee who can be trusted with your benefits.
Each situation is different. If you’re not certain whether you can qualify for SSDI benefits or if you’ve already been denied, having experienced legal guidance may help you improve your chances of approval.