Many people who apply for Social Security disability are unprepared for the scrutiny placed on their lives—including their personal habits. Unfortunately, claimants who smoke or partake in occasional "social" cocktails often see their claims denied, whether or not smoking or alcohol affects their medical condition.
How Smoking, Drug, and Alcohol Use Affects Your Claim
There are two ways a claimant’s alcohol or drug use can affect his disability case.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) is allowed to deny benefits if it believes that alcohol or drug use contributes to your medical condition or is inhibiting your ability to work. This is known as DAA (drug and alcohol abuse) materiality. If evidence of drugs or alcohol is included in your medical record, the SSA can issue a "DAA determination" to see whether these habits caused or contributed to the medical conditions on which you're basing a disability claim.
- Judges who are prejudiced against claimants with those habits may unfairly deny claims, even if smoking and drinking doesn't contribute to disability.
Claimants can be looked on unfavorably in a disability case due to:
- Tobacco use. Judges may have less sympathy for claimants who continue to use tobacco, especially if the disability was caused by smoking (such as lung cancer or COPD).
- Drinking. Although drinking alcohol isn't illegal, it's frowned upon by many judges in disability cases. If you're applying for disability for hepatitis, cirrhosis, or other chronic liver problems and continue to drink, a judge will likely not look upon your case with sympathy.
- Drug use. Some applicants may use drugs such as marijuana on occasion, either recreationally or to control pain. The use of illegal medications usually hurts a claimant's credibility with a judge, since the claimant has admitted he's willing to break the law. Even a reliance on pain medications prescribed by a physician can be seen as drug abuse, negatively impacting the patient’s claim.
It's usually a good idea to try to quit or cut back on any habits that could negatively impact your claim before your case goes forward. In addition, claimants should be extremely careful when mentioning their current or past use of alcohol or drugs during the processing of their disability claims.
If you need help getting your disability benefits approved, our attorneys can examine your claim and advise you on how to proceed. Call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with a Florida Social Security attorney.