Social Security Disability for Partial or Total Blindness
Whether you are totally, legally, or partially blind, you may be eligible for the Social Security Administration’s Disability benefits for the blind. In order to qualify, the SSA requires that your vision loss be quite significant and be present in both eyes. Those blind in one eye are not eligible.
If you don’t meet the SSA’s requirements for loss of peripheral vision or loss of central visual acuity, you may still be able to get blindness disability benefits due to a medical-vocational allowance. However, you’ll have to show that your loss of vision prevents you from working any job available to people with your education, age, and prior job experience.
When Applying for Vision Loss Disability, What Medical Evidence Is Required?
Your first step is to get a physical exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to measure your visual field efficiency (peripheral vision) and central visual acuity (central vision). Your doctor will test you without your glasses using special lenses on their testing equipment. You’ll be required to read from a vision disability chart (Snellen chart) from a set distance. If the SSA believes you faked your results (if your score is low, but you have no history of neurological damage and no noticeable abnormalities during the exam), you’ll probably be required to take a test that measures your brainwaves in response to visual stimuli.
If you have an eye disease, make sure it’s noted in your medical record. Disorders such as retinal detachment, melanoma- or cancer-related retinopathy, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, hypertensive retinopathy, and cataracts, as well as other central retinal diseases, may cause visual acuity loss.
How Do I Start a Vision Loss Disability Claim?
If you’re unsure whether you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI), you may apply for both. In order to apply, you or your lawyer can call the SSA to schedule a time to go in and fill out an application or you can file for disability online. Take care when filling out your application to describe how your vision loss affects both your ability to work and how it affects your daily life such as reading or driving. If you have another medical condition that may be considered a disability, be sure to list the symptoms for that ailment as well. While it can take several months to get a decision on a Disability application, there are exceptions for those who are totally or legally blind.
What Are the Special Rules for Blind Claimants?
There are several rules that pertain to totally or legally blind applicants that don’t apply to disabled claimants who are not blind. For example:
- Some states award legally blind applicants a higher payment amount of SSI than they do to the nonblind disabled
- The usual limit of substantial gainful activity for SSDI claimants in 2019 by the SSA is $1220 per month. However, those who are legally blind may make up to $2040 per month before it counts against them. This does not apply to SSI claimants who have to stay below the SSI income limit.
- Immediate SSI benefits may be awarded to people with severe disabilities who are likely to receive benefits. If you are totally blind (no light perception in either eye), you could receive six months-worth of “presumptive blindness” benefits while waiting to hear from the SSA.
- If you lost income as your vision became worse, you may be allowed to exclude certain earnings from your Social Security record, known as a “disability freeze.” Essentially, your earnings record will freeze before your disability started.
Keeping all of the complex rules for applying for Disability benefits straight can be difficult and stressful. By hiring a Disability attorney to handle your appeal, you gain the knowledge of someone familiar with the system who can help you fight for the benefits you deserve. Call the Disability Help Center Nevada today at (702)786-0460 to schedule an initial consultation. We can assist you with the appeals process from start to finish.