Blindness is not as uncommon as some may think. A 2015 National Health Interview Survey report showed that 23.7 million American adults from age 18 and up reported that they experience vision loss. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), individuals are considered blind if their vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in their better eye. Individuals who are legally blind include those who have been blind since birth as well as those who have had significant visual loss because of certain conditions. Glaucoma, retinopathy, and traumatic damage are some of the conditions that may qualify for disability payments due to visual loss. Social Security Disability for Blindness falls under the umbrella of either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. 

What is the Definition of Blindness?

To be considered blind under the SSA disability program, an adult or child must meet the following social security disability for blindness criteria:

  • you have a central visual acuity for distance of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens; or
  • you have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

What If I Don’t Meet Criteria for Social Security Disability for Blindness?

Those with a visual impairment who are not considered blind according to the criteria above may still be eligible for SSI benefits on the basis of disability. The disability criteria for children and adults differ slightly.

Definition of Disability for a Child

Individuals who are under the age of 18 are considered a child. If the child has medically determinable physical or mental impairments that meet the following criteria, they may be considered “disabled”.

  • results marked and severe functional limitations; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Definition of Disability for an Adult

Individuals who are age 18 or older are considered an adult. If the adult has medically determinable physical or mental impairments that meet the following criteria, they may be considered “disabled.”

  • results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Medical Evidence Required When Applying for Disability for Blindness

As required by the SSA, a physical examination performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist is needed to determine the central visual acuity (how clearly you can see straight ahead). Poor visual acuity isn’t enough to qualify for disability, so the visual field efficiency (peripheral vision) is evaluated as well. All testing is carried out without the use of glasses but instead with lenses that are part of the doctor’s testing equipment. Medical records should show whether an individual has been diagnosed with an eye condition. A decrease in visual acuity may be caused by cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, hypertensive retinopathy, cancer-related or melanoma-related retinopathy, or other kinds of central retinal illness.

Does Your Vision Loss Affect Your Functional Capacity?

If an individual’s visual acuity and/or visual fields do not meet the SSA’s requirements for social security disability for blindness, the SSA must also consider the impact that the vision loss, along with any other relevant symptoms, has on their ability to perform daily activities and regular work activities. If someone is unable to perform their regular job, the SSA will determine whether or not other types of work can be performed. 

Ready to Apply for Social Security Disability for Blindness?

If you think you may qualify for disability benefits for visual impairment, you can apply for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, which requires you to have paid enough taxes into Social Security) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI, which is for low-income taxpayers). This process can be complicated and tedious, so don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced disability attorneys at the Law Offices of Karen Kraus Bill today.

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