Many veterans believe they can’t service-connect alcoholism or drug abuse to receive disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, that’s a common myth. The critical component for this type of disability claim is whether a veteran’s alcoholism, also referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is related to a secondary illness or condition that can be service-connected to time spent in the military.

While it’s true that the VA refuses to consider some disorders as service-connected—those that clearly aren't related to a veteran’s time in the military—if the veteran can prove that his AUD disability is secondary to a service-connected disorder or aggravated by one, it’s possible for the veteran to receive compensation for it.

When Is Alcoholism a Disability?

When is alcoholism a disability worthy of VA benefits?The VA recognizes alcoholism as a disability when it can be service-connected to other conditions that developed during time spent in the military.

For example, if a veteran developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while in service, and he abuses alcohol to self-medicate as a way to cope with his PTSD, he may be eligible for VA disability benefits.

Additionally, if the veteran had a history of AUD prior to service and can prove that his condition was “aggravated” by another service-connected health issue, he may also qualify.

However, making this connection isn’t easy, and it’s important that an individual has all the necessary evidence, including lay statements and a medical opinion, to support the claim. The VA may not recognize your claim if you’ve abused alcohol out of habit, out of a need to be social, or as a way to de-stress. These actions can be viewed as “willful misconduct”—a reckless disregard of the probable consequences of engaging in harmful and dangerous behavior. So it’s important to hire a VA disability attorney to help file a convincing and successful claim.  

Discover the Cuddigan Law Advantage

Submitting a successful VA disability claim for alcohol use disorder can be a difficult process. A VA determination of willful misconduct can stand in the way of an individual receiving benefits for an acknowledged medical concern.

At Cuddigan Law, we understand that veterans who suffer from PTSD can face many types of other medical conditions, including alcoholism. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we can help you if you need VA disability benefits following a diagnosis of PTSD or any other health condition. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska