Will substance abuse complicate an SSDI benefit application?

| May 18, 2021 | Social Security Disability

Maybe.

That one-word answer to the above headline query leading off today’s blog post is likely unsatisfactory to anyone reading it.

But it does highlight the ambiguity and complexity attached to alcohol and/or drug addiction when a person dealing with substance abuse engages the Social Security Disability Insurance process.

The hoops and hurdles generally featuring with just about any SSDI application are materially challenging for any claimant, regardless of his or her disability. Where substance abuse is concerned, though, things can seem unduly complicated and uncertain.

An instructive piece from the advocacy group AARP underscores why. It immediately stresses this:

  • Substance abuse alone will not qualify for benefits
  • Abuse, though, will not automatically serve to disqualify if an applicant meets the disabling criteria for some other recognized condition

Aside from those bulleted points, government examiners might additionally focus upon other matters as well. The AARP overview stresses that the SSA can make a negative claim determination if it believes “that drug or alcohol use causes or contributes to the physical or functional limitations that render you disabled.” Moreover, examiners will make a call concerning whether substance use is “material” to disability in a given case.

A core SSA query regarding materiality focuses on whether an individual suffering from substance abuse would get sufficiently better to resume work if he or she stopped using drugs or alcohol.

The bottom line concerning an SSDI application filed by a person with a substance abuse problem is that some complexity will likely attach to the assessment. An applicant might reasonably want to secure timely and candid legal counsel from a proven SSDI attorney.