Understanding SSA’s Policy on Drug Addiction and Alcoholism and Its Impact on Disability Determinations

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In this special collaborative webinar of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery TA Center, a representative from SSA’s Office of Disability Programs will describe the new ruling and how it aims to improve disability determinations for people who have a co-occurring substance use disorder. Additionally, attendees will hear from a representative from Disability Determination Services (DDS), a physician from a Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) project, and a SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) specialist, all of whom will offer their perspectives and describe how this ruling is incorporated into practice.

The 1996 termination of SSI and SSDI eligibility for individuals whose drug addiction or alcoholism (DAA) is material to their disability was not intended to disqualify persons disabled by co-occurring impairments that include substance use disorders. Such denials have nevertheless been widely reported to occur. Inconsistent interpretation and application of the DAA policy combined with the complexities of determining whether DAA is material to disability have prevented many people with severe disabilities from accessing much needed assistance.

Until recently, the only available guidance on this policy has been an Emergency Message released by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 1996. In February, SSA published a new ruling which provides clearer guidance for evaluating cases involving DAA.

This webinar will include ample time for presenters to answer questions from attendees.


  • Sabrina Edgington, MSSW, Program and Policy Specialist, National Health Care for the Homeless Council
  • Kristin Lupfer, LMSW, Associate Director, SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Center
  • Michele Schaefer, Supervisory Team Leader, Office of Medical Listings Improvement, Office of Disability Programs, Social Security Administration
  • Daette Quick, Certified Public Manager, Iowa Disability Determination Services
  • Barry Zevin, MD, Tom Waddell Health Center, San Francisco Department of Public Health