The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not find you to be disabled if alcoholism or drug addiction is a contributing factor material to the determination of whether you are disabled.
This means that even if you are disabled, SSA will decide whether you would be able to work if you stopped using drugs and alcohol.
To reach a finding of disability, the SSA will evaluate which of your current physical and mental limitations, would remain if you stopped using drugs or alcohol and whether those non-drug and alcohol related conditions meet the social security requirements for disability.
Interestingly, SSA does not care whether your other disabling condition resulted from alcohol or drug addiction. So, for example, if you have disabling cirrhosis of the liver which was caused by drinking, the issue is whether cirrhosis of the liver would continue to be disabling if you stopped drinking now. If it is disabling, you are entitled to disability benefits even though the cirrhosis was the result of alcoholism.
You have the burden of proving to the SSA that (1) you are disabled under social security definitions, and (2) that drug addiction or alcoholism is not a contributing factor material to the finding of disability, i.e., that you would not be able to be gainfully employed even if you stopped using drugs or alcohol.
Alcoholism or drug addiction may be a symptom of a severe underlying and disabling mental impairment and the addiction is an attempt to self-medicate, especially where psychiatric care is not available for economic or social reasons. From a social security lawyer’s perspective, addiction cases are especially challenging and require special care and experience.
Social Security law is complex; at Hoffman, Larin and Agnetti, PA we offer a free consultation so that you can learn your rights. There are no fees for representation before the Social Security Administration in disability claims, unless we win. We have offices throughout south Florida, in Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties for your convenience.