An Honest, Clear Voice In SSI/SSDI Care

Can you get SSDI or SSI for drug or alcohol addiction?

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2024 | Social Security Disability Benefits For Mental Conditions

All of the prevailing medical science indicates the same thing: Drug addiction and alcoholism are diseases, not character flaws – but you cannot get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for them.

There are some significant misunderstandings about the way that drug and alcohol addiction are treated by the Social Security Administration (SSA). These are the basics you need to know:

Drug or alcohol addiction used to be considered a disabling condition

A lot of the mistaken information that you may hear about how drug or alcohol addiction is treated comes from the fact that the rules have changed over time. 

Prior to the passage of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, people who were unable to work due to substance abuse disorders were considered disabled for SSDI and SSI – regardless of what other conditions they may or may not have. 

That has all changed. Now, SSA will only award disability benefits to someone with a substance abuse disorder if their drug or alcohol use is “immaterial” to their disability. 

In plain English, that means SSA has to ask the question, “Would you be considered disabled if you stopped using drugs or drinking?” If the answer is negative, then you do not qualify for benefits. If the answer is affirmative, then you do.

Drug or alcohol addiction will not automatically qualify you (anymore) for SSDI or SSI benefits – but it also won’t automatically disqualify you. Instead, a substance abuse disorder makes your claim much more complicated, since there are a lot of nuances involved and the answer to SSA’s question may be a matter of speculation. That makes it increasingly likely that your initial claim will be denied without experienced legal guidance.