Alcohol Dependence and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Alcoholism?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
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.
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. People who have AUD have problems controlling their drinking, have a preoccupation with alcohol and continue to drink even when it places their health and safety at risk. 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. Some people may drink to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones.
Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe, based on the number of symptoms an individual experiences.
- Strong craving for alcohol
- Spending a lot of time either drinking or recovering from alcohol use
- Inability to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Not fulfilling responsibilities at work, home or school because of repetitive drinking
- Developing a tolerance for alcohol
- Drinking in situations when it’s not safe, such as driving
- Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as nausea, sweating and shaking
- Continuing to drink even when you are aware it’s causing physical, mental or social problems
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Alcohol Abuse Disorder. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Drinking too much alcohol over time or even on a single occasion 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.
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
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.”
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.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
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.
Author: 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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