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Alcohol Dependence and Qualifying for Disability Benefits

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis
Updated: 7/17/2024

Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder is not considered an impairment by the SSA so an applicant would not qualify for SSDI with alcoholism alone. However, an applicant may be eligible if they have limitations that were caused by the use of alcohol and those limitations impede their ability to function in a work situation.
If an applicant’s medical condition matches the criteria of an impairment listing, and if applicant would still have the same functional limitations if they stopped drinking, the applicant would be considered disabled.


Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Alcoholism?

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.4 million of adults in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder or AUD. Commonly referred to as alcoholism, AUD is a pattern of problematic drinking that affects a person’s health and general well-being. A combination of genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking affects a person’s behavior, physical health and ability to work. Over time alcoholism can change normal functions of some areas of the brain affecting judgment and behavior.

Alcoholism and disability benefits


Drinking too much alcohol over time can lead to serious health problems, including:

  •    Liver disease.
  •   Heart problems
  •   Diabetes complications
  •   Digestive problems
  •   Brain damage an neurological problems
  •   Bone damage.
  •   Increased risk of cancer.
  •   Weakened immune system.
  •   Eye problems.
  •   Birth defects.
  •   Sexual function and menstruation problems.
  •   Adverse reactions to medications.


These conditions and accompanying symptoms can affect your ability to maintain employment.


Is a person with alcohol use disorder disabled?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a person is considered disabled if the individual is an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic.

Consequently, they may be entitled to accommodation in the workplace if they are qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. The Social Security Administration, however, does not automatically consider alcohol use disorder a disability and it is not listed as a disabling medical condition in Social Security’s Blue Book.


Is a person with alcohol use disorder eligible for Social Security Disability Income?

Since alcohol use disorder is not considered an impairment, an applicant would not qualify for SSDI with alcoholism alone.

However, an applicant may be eligible if they have physical or mental limitations that were caused by the use of alcohol and those limitations impede their ability to function in a work situation. If an applicant’s medical condition matches the criteria of an impairment listing, and if applicant would still have the same functional limitations if they stopped drinking, the applicant would be considered disabled.


How does Social Security evaluate disability when alcoholism is a contributing factor?

First Social Security will examine the medical evidence of alcoholism and decide if alcoholism is a contributing factor to the determination of disability.

The most important element in this evaluation is whether or not Social Security would find the applicant disabled if they stopped using alcohol. Social Security will evaluate the applicant’s current physical and mental limitations to determine limitations the applicant would still experience if they no longer used alcohol. “If we determine that your remaining limitations would not be disabling, we will find that your drug addiction or alcoholism is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability. If we determine that your remaining limitations are disabling, you are disabled independent of your drug addiction or alcoholism and we will find that your drug addiction or alcoholism is not a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.” This means that if your limitations are 1) caused by alcoholism and are considered reversible and 2) you don’t have any other functional limitations that would qualify for disability benefits, you would not be considered disabled and your application would be denied. To be considered disabled by Social Security, you must prove that you experience limitations even if you are not longer using alcohol.


How can I be approved for SSDI with alcoholism?

It cannot be emphasized enough that if you are still drinking and the Social Security Administration believes that if you stopped drinking your medical condition would improve to the point where you would be able to work, you will not be considered disabled and Social Security will deny your claim.

The best possibility for approval is if you can link your medical condition to the requirements of a listed impairment; many of the diseases and disorders caused by excessive alcohol consumption are covered, but you must be able to prove that you experience the same limitations even without alcohol use.


Alcohol use has many damaging effects and can be related to several medical conditions that are termed disabling by Social Security:

  •    Liver Disease, such as cirrhosis
  •   Neurocognitive Disorders. Applicant must show a cognitive deficit such as memory loss, difficulties with language or a decrease in coordination.
  •   Peripheral Neuropathies.
  •   Depressive Syndrome
  •   Anxiety Disorders
  •   Pancreatitis
  •   Gastritis
  •   Seizures


As with any other medical disorder, it’s essential to provide complete records documenting all your medical conditions including physical exam notes, laboratory results, psychological evaluation reports and records of hospitalizations.

Because alcoholism is not considered a disability by itself, Social Security will evaluate how associated impairments (liver disease, etc.) limit your ability to work. For example, if you have liver disease, you may experience severe abdominal pain, fatigue and shortness of breath. Social Security will conduct a residual functional capacity assessment (RFC) to evaluate your ability to perform routine movement and necessary physical activity in a work environment. Social Security uses the RFC assessment to determine what jobs an applicant can still do, if any. If there is some type of work you can still perform, your claim will be denied, but if Social Security finds there is no job you can do, you may be awarded benefits under a “medical-vocational allowance.”


Social Security disability lawyer

“Once Social Security determines the limitations caused by your condition, they will employ a vocational expert to assess whether a person with these limitations is employable. Most vocational experts will find a person to be unemployable if their condition or the treatment rendered for the condition causes the person to regularly be absent two or more days a month or be “off-task” 15% or more of the workday.”


Alcoholism is a serious medical condition which impacts an individual’s employment as well as their personal life.

If you are unable to work because of the effects of alcoholism, whether or not you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits is a difficult question to answer. An attorney experienced in Social Security Disability can help you evaluate your case and your chances for approval.

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At Bemis, Roach and Reed, if we can't help you, we will try to find the right attorneys for you.

We offer each of our prospective clients a free no obligation one hour phone or office consultation to see if we can help you and if you are comfortable with us. We know how difficult a time like this can be and how hard the decisions are. If we can be of assistance to you and help you find a solution to your issue we will even if that means referring you to another attorney.

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Disability Benefits FAQs


Social Security has some basic financial requirements.

Before you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must satisfy some basic financial requirements. You must: 1) have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months; and 2) you must have worked in a job where you paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough; and 3) you must not earn more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is $1,550 per month in 2024 for nonblind applicants and $2,590 per month for blind applicants.
Basic SSDI Requirements –>


You may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another medical condition.

One disorder alone may not meet the criteria of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have more than one medical condition, Social Security must consider how those health issues combined limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
Disability for Multiple Impairments –>

If you are 55 or older or have another medical condition you may get approval.

Applicants who are 55 or older often fall under a grid rule, which means they are not expected to learn a new job.
Disability for those over 55 –>

You may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another medical condition.

One disorder alone may not meet the criteria of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have more than one medical condition, Social Security must consider how those health issues combined limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
Disability for Multiple Impairments –>

Should you file a claim?

If you believe that you meet Social Security’s medical and financial requirements, you should apply for benefits. If you are still unsure or would like to talk to someone, please contact us at 512-454-4000. We are always ready to take your call and discuss your options with you free of charge. We are happy to help folks just like you find the best solution for their personal situation.

How do I file for Social Security Disability benefits?

Once you have decided to file a claim, you can take the first step and apply for Social Security Disability benefits in person at your local Social Security Administration office, online, or over the phone.
How to Apply for SSDI –>

Appealing denied benefits

Most who file are denied initially. That doesn’t mean you won’t qualify; you just need to file an appeal.
There are four steps to the Social Security appeal process.
SSDI Appeals Process –>

Do I need a disability attorney for SSDI?

You may certainly file a claim on your own, but evidence shows that your chances for approval are increased significantly if you have legal representation.
Do I need an SSDI attorney–>

What if I don’t qualify for SSDI?

If you haven’t worked long enough to earn enough work credits, or if you earn too much income, you may be eligible for disability benefits through another Social Security program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or from a long-term disability insurance plan through your employer or a privately purchased policy.
What is Supplemental Security Income or SSI?–>

I have long-term disability insurance – should I file a claim?

Absolutely – you should file a claim as soon as you become disabled.
LTD Disability Appeals Process–>


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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

Attorney Lloyd BemisAuthor: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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