Determining whether drug or alcohol abuse will affect a claimant’s eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits depends on materiality. If drug or alcohol abuse is found to be material to your disability you will not be able to win a case for Social Security Disability benefits. For example, if you were to apply for Social Security Disability benefits based on liver dysfunction and hepatitis, but you also have a history of alcohol abuse, some of it recent. If your liver damage is so pronounced that ceasing alcohol use completely would make no difference to your medical condition, then your alcohol abuse would be immaterial to your condition and you would probably win your case for Social Security Disability benefits. Conversely, if ceasing alcohol use would result in medical improvement, then it is material to your disability and your claim for Social Security Disability would likely be denied. Simply put, Social Security will not pay Social Security Disability benefits to claimants whose disabling conditions are exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse.
Claimants who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse but are currently not using these substances should carefully review their medical records. Doctors will often indicate “possible use” in their treatment notes. Such indications, proven or not, can have a damaging effect on your Social Security Disability case. Claimants who suffer from a mental disability should especially be careful, as mental disability cases are more likely to be denied when substance abuse is involved.
While each case is unique, it is true an applicant has a better chance of obtaining Social Security Disability benefits if they are sober and remain sober.