The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes alcoholism as a disability but the Social Security Act does not recognize that alcoholism is a disabling condition for the purposes of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. These are the two primary disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the United States.
While you may not be directly entitled to disability benefits due to alcoholism, the SSA will try to determine the level of impact substance use and or addiction has on your overall health and ability to work. They will then conduct an evaluation to determine if alcoholism is a contributing factor in your impairment. If it does contribute to your level of impairment, SSA will consider whether alcoholism caused the condition or the condition exists independently.
The intangible link between disabilities and alcoholism
The issue of social security disability for alcoholism is complex. There is a common link between alcohol and disabilities. Some estimate that as many as 20.3 million people in the United States suffer from a substance abuse disorder of some kind. Long-term, chronic alcoholism and substance abuse can cause a range of severe physical and mental health conditions. Unfortunately, alcoholism is not considered a stand alone disability.
That does not mean a person with alcoholism can not obtain SSDI or SSI benefits. It does make the case much more complicated and the likelihood of winning the case much less likely, people with alcoholism and addiction problems may still be entitled to benefits.
Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older can apply for Social Security disability benefits if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Their condition must meet the following minimum criteria:
- They are no longer able to engage in substantially gainful activity due to the medical condition.
- The medical condition either has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
Type of disability that fits in with alcoholism: Why do people choose alcohol?
- Physical Disabilities
In a majority of cases, a physical disability is easily noticed. So, this makes it easier to document the ailments. Let us say someone’s in a wheelchair and he or she requires a ramp. Or let us give an example of an individual missing a leg or arm that requires the automatic door!
Regardless, even the simplest fixes might not turn out to be the best solutions to these problems. In fact, the regular challenges that a disabled person has to deal with can also negatively impact his mental state of being. It may also make them feel alienated or unable to accomplish basic goals. Besides producing negative emotions, individuals also self medicate to alleviate stress or traumas. Alcohol, thus, becomes a mode of relief.
These are some examples of daily functions that may be impeded by having any physical disability:
- Intellectual Disabilities
Intellectual disabilities, also known as mental retardation or cognitive deficits, may be harder to substantiate with medical and legal documents due to the subjective nature of the symptoms. There is often no objective measure for mental and emotional disabilities. Here are the disabilities that can cause individuals to choose alcohol as a mode of relief:
- Developmental issues
- Learning disabilities
- Congenital disorders
- Complications from illness
- Chromosomal disorders
- Brain injury
The link between Social Security benefits and alcoholism
Now, we come to the main part of the post! Social Security may deny the disability claim if the agency determines drug addiction or alcoholism is a significantly contributing factor to your disability.
Social Security tries to determine whether or not alcoholism contributes to the disability. This assessment is called the drug or the alcohol addiction determination. If alcoholism is determined to be the primary factor in your health condition, or that you can continue to engage in substantially gainful activity in spite of your alcoholism, you may not be eligible for disability benefits. You may, however, have a current disabling condition caused by chronic alcoholism. You may be entitled to benefits for a current condition caused by past alcohol use, provided that your current alcoholism is not a significant factor in the current degree of severity.
How to qualify for substance abuse disorder benefits?
The SSA is not likely to find you disabled for benefits purposes when your case is dependent solely on a diagnosis of chronic alcoholism disorder. Nonetheless, many people who suffer from alcohol and other substance abuse disorders have physical and behavioral changes which may limit their ability to function properly.
The SSA will determine whether your disabling condition would continue in the absence of drinking alcohol. Alternatively, they will determine whether you can continue working in spite of alcoholism. If either of these are true, you would be unlikely to be eligible to receive disability benefits.
Here are some disabilities that you may be approved for in spite of alcoholism:
#1 Neurocognitive Disorders
Neurocognitive disorders are caused by damage to the brain through degenerative disease or injury. The ideal example of such a disorder is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
#2 Depressive Syndrome
Depression is often caused by alcohol or exacerbated by alcoholism. In fact, it is evaluated under the disability listing for mood disorders. People suffering from alcoholism may be entitled to benefits for depressive syndrome.
#3 Anxiety Disorders
It goes without saying that alcoholism can cause long-term anxiety disorder.
Other disorders are peripheral neuropathies, liver disease, seizures, gastritis, and pancreatitis.
If you or someone you know suffer from the mental or physical ailments and are in need of financial support, do not hesitate to contact the professional assistance of Disability Lawyer in San Antonio.