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Can You Recover Social Security Disability Benefits for Drug and Alcohol Abuse?

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Drug and alcohol addiction may leave a person with several impairments that make it impossible for him to work or earn a living. However, this fact, by itself does not qualify a person for Social Security disability befits.

There are a number of impairments that can be caused due to drug or alcohol addiction. For example, alcohol addiction can result in possibly debilitating liver disease, while excessive smoking is linked to several forms of cancer, including lung and throat cancer. While determining an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration takes into consideration if the addiction is a material factor in the impairment. This means that the agency will review if the person meets the criteria of the disability, even in the absence of the addiction.

Another thing to keep in mind is that addiction by itself does not qualify as an impairment qualifying for benefits. An individual’s drug addiction may lead to blackouts, extreme confusion, disorientation and any number of other disabling symptoms, but these on their own will not qualify the person for benefits.   In making a determination, the agency will also consider if the disabling symptoms would disappear if the person stopped his abuse.

All these factors make it difficult to predict the success of a claim based on impairments linked to drug and alcohol addiction. The agency’s criteria for determining whether the addiction is material to the disability can be confusing and hard to predict. In many cases, these claims are denied initially, and must be taken to an appeals hearing.

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