Skip to content

July 23, 2023

Can You Get VA Disability for Alcoholism?

Last updated on May 9, 2024

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

No, you can’t get VA disability for alcoholism on its own.

However, even though there is no separate VA rating for alcoholism, you might be able to prove secondary service connection for disability conditions that are proximately due to or aggravated by alcohol use disorder.

Alcoholism can also be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition or physical condition that can be service connected.

Example: A veteran currently suffers from service connected PTSD and starts to drink heavily to cope with severe PTSD symptoms. The veteran then develops cirrhosis of the liver 10 years later due to the alcohol abuse. The veteran is eligible for VA disability compensation for cirrhosis of the liver secondary to PTSD.

VA Disability for Alcoholism: What is the VA Rating for Alcoholism?

VA Rating for Alcoholism

There is no VA rating for alcoholism.

Thus, you can’t get a VA disability rating for alcoholism via direct service connection.

For example, you can’t file a VA claim for alcoholism and expect it to be service connected under the law—it will be denied if attempt to connect alcohol abuse directly to your military service.

However, alcoholism can be service connected on a secondary basis or as a symptom of a service connected disability.

What are the VA Alcohol Use Disorder Guidelines?

VA Alcohol Use Disorder Guidelines

The current VA alcohol use disorder guidelines say that the VA will not pay disability benefits directly for alcohol use disorder; however, it’s possible to service connect conditions that are caused or made worse by alcoholism on a secondary basis.

The VA Rater shall not consider disabilities or death that result from the abuse of alcohol during active service to have been incurred in the line of duty.

However, under Allen v. Principi, if there is sufficient medical evidence establishing that the alcohol or drug abuse disability is secondary to, or is a symptom of service connected disability, and where the alcohol or drug abuse disability is not due to willful misconduct, then a veteran may establish service connection for the alcohol or drug abuse disability on a secondary basis. 

The Federal Circuit has held that 38 U.S.C. 1110, precludes payment of compensation in only two situations

  • Primary alcohol abuse disabilities that arise during service, or
  • Secondary disabilities (such as cirrhosis of the liver) that result from primary alcohol abuse. 

Note: The Federal Circuit defined “primary” as meaning an alcohol abuse disability arising during service from voluntary and willful drinking to excess.

Pro Tip: Substance abuse (e.g., alcohol abuse) may be a symptom of worsening of a service connected condition resulting in a higher rating for that condition.

Alcohol Abuse VA Rating and Secondary Service Connection

Alcohol Abuse VA Rating

Even though you can’t get VA rating for alcohol abuse directly, you might be able to connect it to one or more service connection disabilities on a secondary basis.

According to M21-1, where there is sufficient medical evidence establishing that an alcohol abuse disability is secondary to or a symptom of a service connected disability, and where the alcohol abuse disability is not due to willful misconduct, then a veteran may establish service connection for the alcohol abuse disability on a secondary basis.

Establish service connection under 38 CFR 3.310(a) for any diseases or disabilities resulting from alcohol abuse, if and only if, the alcohol abuse is determined to be secondary to a service connected disability.

Example: A veteran is service connected for chronic back pain. He then claims service connection for alcohol abuse as secondary to the back disability. The VA examination diagnoses alcohol abuse as secondary to the back disability, noting that the veteran experiences chronic, intractable back pain, and has utilized alcohol for treatment of the pain to the point that he is now alcohol dependent. The VA Rater shall award service connection for alcohol abuse secondary to the service connected back disability. 

Reference: For more information on establishing service connection for drug abuse or alcoholism secondary to or as a symptom of a service connected disability, see Allen v. Principi, 237 F. 3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

Are There VA Secondary Conditions to Alcoholism?

VA Secondary Conditions to Alcoholism

Yes, alcohol abuse can take a significant mental and physical toll on the body, resulting in secondary disabilities that are eligible for service connected disability benefits.

Here’s a list of VA secondary conditions that can be caused or made worse by alcohol use disorder:

  • Liver Disease: Chronic alcohol abuse is a leading cause of liver diseases such as alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. These conditions can range in severity, with cirrhosis of the liver being a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Cardiovascular Disorders: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and an increased risk of stroke.
  • Pancreatitis: Alcohol abuse can lead to pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis can be severe and life-threatening, while chronic pancreatitis can lead to long-term complications.
  • Neurological Disorders: Long-term alcohol abuse can damage the nervous system, leading to conditions such as alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage) and alcoholic dementia.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Alcohol abuse can irritate and damage the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to conditions such as GERD, gastritis, esophagitis, and peptic ulcers.
  • Mental Health Disorders: Alcoholism is often associated with mental health issues, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of suicide.
  • Immune System Impairment: Chronic alcohol abuse can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
  • Osteoporosis: Long-term alcohol abuse can contribute to decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Cancers: Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including those of the liver, mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, and colon.

Want to WIN Your VA Claim FASTER? WE CAN HELP!

  • 25,000+ disabled veterans served in our membership programs since 2016.
  • 30% average VA rating increase for veterans who complete our #1 rated Elite program.
  • Employs 215 teammates; comprised of 74 veterans and 16 military spouses.

About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

Related Articles

Featured Resources

Elite Membership

Dear Veteran,
Here’s the brutal truth about VA disability claims:

According to our data, 8/10 (80%) of veterans reading this message right now are underrated by the VA…

This means you do NOT currently have the VA disability rating and compensation YOU deserve, and you could be missing out on thousands of dollars of tax-free compensation and benefits each month.

As a fellow disabled Veteran this is shameful and I’m on a mission to change it.

Brian Reese here, Air Force service-disabled Veteran and Founder @ VA Claims Insider.

Since 2016, VA Claims Insider has helped thousands of Veterans just like you get the VA rating and compensation they deserve in less time.

If accepted into our ELITE membership program, you’ll get free up-front access and permission to use $13,119 worth of proprietary VA claim resources, including access to our network of independent medical professionals for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Medical Nexus Letters, which could help you get a HIGHER VA rating in LESS time.

It’s FREE to get started, so click “Go Elite Now” below to complete our 3-step intake process.

  1. Complete Basic Information
  2. Sign Members Agreement
  3. Join the Mastermind Group

If you’re stuck, frustrated, underrated, and currently rated between 0%-90%, VA Claims Insider Elite is for you!

Click “Go Elite Now” below to get started today and a member of our team will be in touch within minutes.

Go Elite Now!

Why Choose VA Claims Insider

You’ve exhausted your free resources

You're not alone. Thousands of other Veterans in our Community are here for you.

Veteran Community

You’re ready to get the rating you deserve

We know the pain of feeling stuck, frustrated, and alone, and we want to make this process as easy and painless as possible for you.

Explore Elite Membership

We win ONLY when YOU win

Hear from fellow Veterans just like you, with many of our Veteran Ambassadors having gone through our programs.

Schedule a Call

Fellow Veterans:

For a limited time, you can book a free, no-obligation VA Claim Discovery Call with one of our experts.

Book A Call

Fellow Veterans:

For a limited time, you can book a free, no-obligation VA Claim Discovery Call with one of our experts.

Book A Call