How Does Substance Abuse Affect My Benefits?

The Social Security Administration has a straightforward standard for disability benefits: you must have a disability preventing you from financially supporting yourself. Plain and simple. But how does substance abuse affect your ability to receive these benefits? You might think that it would result in immediate denial. However, this is not the case.

The SSA does its best to separate disabilities with the use of alcohol or drugs. For example, if you are blind and need benefits, but you also drink, you won’t be turned away because of alcohol use. On the other hand, there are some disabilities that are the result of substance abuse. If your disability can be cured or improved by quitting alcohol or drug use, you will most likely be denied.

Long-term Damage

Sadly, substance abuse can lead to significant, longterm damage and disease. This can create disabilities that affect your ability to work or make money. Here, the question of substance abuse is irrelevant. If your disability will persist even after stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, then using them doesn’t matter. According to the SSA, a disability is a disability.

DDA Determination

Before benefits are awarded, the SSA will perform a DDA determination. With careful evaluation, they look to see if your alcohol and drug use is causing or adding to your disability. They evaluate if your substance abuse has caused long-term damage or short-term (fixable) issues.  In addition, they will observe to see if you meet the basic requirements for disability benefits:

  • You may not earn $1,130 or more a month from working.
  • Your condition must be expected to last at least 12 months, and
  • Your condition must have a severe impact on your ability to work

The SSA tries to separate your use of drugs and alcohol with awarding benefits. If you meet the listings, then you should be eligible.


If you are struggling to get disability benefits, call us today. We are experienced Utah Social Security Disability Lawyers and we can help you get the benefits you’ve earned. We will help you understand your case and how your substance abuse will affect your claim. We are here to help.