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SSDI benefits for drug addiction and alcoholism

In Missouri and many other states, alcoholism and drug addiction afflict thousands of people. Each condition is considered to be a disease, with well-established diagnostic criteria and treatment regimens. In this post, we will discuss the extent to which persons suffering from either of these two diseases may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits.

The Social Security Administration’s list of qualifying conditions places alcoholism and drug addiction under the category “substance addiction disorders.” A substance addiction disorder is a condition that causes “behavioral changes or physical changes associated with the regular use of substances that affect the central nervous system.” The severity of the illness must be evaluated according to the criteria that are specified for other mental disorders, including organic mental disorders, depressive syndrome, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, peripheral neuropathies, liver damage, gastritis, pancreatitis and seizures.

Space limitations prevent us from describing the qualifying conditions for each of these diseases, but in general, the disease must be shown to cause a change in behavior or physical functioning that prevents the applicant from working. Such changes must be documented by the observations of a medical professional. Many mental illnesses cannot be detected by objective diagnostic tools such as x-rays, CT scans, laboratory tests and the like. Thus, the observations of the treating professional are especially important in proving an SSD claim based on either alcoholism or drug addiction.

Disability claims based on subjective conditions such as mental illness, addiction or alcoholism can be very difficult to prove. In most cases, the assistance of a lawyer who specializes in handling SSDI claims can be especially helpful. A knowledgeable attorney can help an applicant assemble the necessary employment and medical information and provide advice on how to pursue an appeal if the initial application should be denied.

Source: Social Security Administration, Disability Evaluation Under Social Security 12.09, Substance addiction disorders, accessed on Aug. 14, 2016


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