Alcohol and drug addiction is prevalent throughout our society, not just in New Orleans as some would have us believe. As a social security disability attorney, I am often asked how people with drug or alcohol addiction are able to get disability benefits. I have also been asked whether having a drug addiction or being an alcoholic can prevent someone from getting disability benefits.
In response, I tell them that Congress does not allow your social security tax dollars to be given to those who cannot work solely because of alcoholism or drug addiction. Specifically, 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(C) provides:
“An individual shall not be considered to be disabled for purposes of this title if alcoholism or drug addiction would (but for this subparagraph) be a contributing factor material to the Commissioner’s determination that the individual is disabled.”
So, basically, if a person’s only impairment or disability is the addiction, they cannot be awarded benefits. Also, if the addiction is a material contributing factor to their disability, Congress has declared that such persons should not get disability benefits.
However, a drug addict or alcoholic is not prohibited from obtaining social security disability benefits if they have another disability that renders them disabled under Social Security law. A simple example is that of a drug addict who is rendered a paraplegic in a car accident. The disabling condition (paraplegia) is not related to the drug addiction. Assuming the addict meets all other requirements, they can receive SSDI.
Social Security rules basically say that if a person was to stop drinking or abusing drugs, but the disabling condition would continue, they could get benefits. For example, if an alcoholic developed cirrhosis of the liver due to years of drinking and stopped drinking, the cirrhosis could still be used as a basis to award disability, if sufficiently disabling.
Social Security disability cases involving drug addicts or alcoholics can be very complicated from a legal standpoint. If you or someone you know is in this situation, you should encourage them to seek legal assistance with their social security claim.