Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker, or one like it on the car in front of you at the stop light: “,I Am Not An Alcoholic-I’,m A Drunk-Alcoholics Go To Meetings.”, Some people might chuckle –, others might cringe. Alcoholism is.
Alcoholism and its impact on work
Alcoholism is a disease and a progressive one. As the body becomes more dependent on alcohol, the more alcohol is needed to satisfy what the body demands. As times goes on, health problems develop and the ability to function will be affected with judgment and motor skills becoming impaired. For some, the ability to hold down a job becomes impossible. We probably all know someone who fits into this scenario-sometimes that person is looking back at us in the mirror.
The question arises –, can alcoholism be considered the basis for disability under the Social Security Disability Act when someone is no longer able to perform meaningful work? A number of years ago, the answer to that question was a fairly straightforward yes. But Congress stepped in and changed that in 1966 and the answer now is more complex. If alcoholism is the only impairment a person suffers, the answer is no, that person is not considered disabled.
How Social Security treats alcohol abuse
If you have an underlying medical or psychological condition that is disabling, the SSA conducts a more complex analysis. A determination will first be made if all of the conditions, including the alcoholism, is disabling. It does not matter at this point is the underlying condition is in fact caused by the alcoholism. If determined to be disabling, then the inquiry focuses on whether continued drinking is a contributing factor that is material to the disability. This step is referred to as a drug addiction/alcoholism (DAA) determination. However, if it is determined that even if you quit drinking the disabling problems would continue to persist, then a finding of disability may be made.
An alternative path to benefits is a disability the SSA officially refers to as a “,substance addiction disorder.”, The qualification is not for the alcoholism, but for severe alcohol-related conditions. Examples of these are laid out in the federal listings of impairments and include organic brain syndrome, liver damage, pancreatitis and seizures.
Seeking experienced legal representation
As this discussion should make clear, SSA disability determinations when alcoholism is involved are technical and complex. Anyone who is thinking about applying for benefits should first seek the representation of a Colorado attorney experienced in both the disability process and the legal and medical issues involved.