The consequences of addiction can be devastating, not only for the people with addictions, but for their family, friends and communities. Substance abuse is linked to a wide range of legal problems, from divorce and custody issues to DUIs and imprisonment.

But regardless of what a person does under the influence, drugs and alcohol take a toll on a person’s body. Many people develop lasting health problems as a result of abuse, and sometimes, health problems, like chronic pain or depression, drive people to abuse drugs or alcohol.

If you’re considering applying for disability benefits, don’t let a history of substance abuse dissuade you. Learn how Social Security views addiction when determining a person’s eligibility.

Applying for disability when you’ve suffered from addiction

The process of applying for and receiving disability benefits can be long and arduous, even for people with severe occupational impairment. In the time between submitting the application and receiving your first payment, you can suffer a lot of financial hardship and stress.

Because of this, it makes sense to anticipate problems and plan accordingly. One way you can do this is by ensuring that the records you submit to Social Security are accurate and complete. Addiction is a medical issue, and if you’ve been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, it should be included in your medical history.

Not surprisingly, many people are reluctant to do this, and you might be one of them. You may have heard that people who abuse drugs or alcohol aren’t eligible for Social Security disability. While there’s some truth to this, it doesn’t mean what you might think it does.

How drug or alcohol addiction can affect your claim

The Social Security Administration lays out strict guidelines for determining who is disabled and who is not. To receive benefits, you must have a condition that prevents you from earning a living wage and is not expected to improve in the near future. This is different from the definition of disability that many are familiar with, which is much less restrictive.

Substance abuse disorders are a special case. They can be extremely disabling for many people, and given the biological origins of addiction, people who abuse drugs and alcohol are increasingly seen as sick rather than morally inferior. Still, the Social Security Administration will not award benefits simply because you have a substance abuse disorder.

This is sometimes taken to mean that substance abuse disqualifies a person. However, that’s not the case. Drug or alcohol use may prompt closer examination of your claim, especially if you’re currently using, but you won’t be denied benefits solely on the basis of a drug problem. Your eligibility for disability benefits has less to do with how you became disabled and more to do with how it affects you. Only disabilities resulting from current substance abuse, not past, are disregarded.

If you’re concerned about how addiction might affect your disability claim, we’ll advocate for you. Contact our offices by phone, email, or text message for a free consultation!