This post discusses Social Security Disability for the blind. If you or someone you care for is unable to work due to blindness, we offer free case reviews and no fee unless you win.
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Types of Social Security Disability Benefits
The first step in receiving disability benefits is to apply. When you apply the Social Security Administration will determine which type of benefits you are able to apply for:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life. You must be found disabled before your date last insured (DLI) to be found eligible for SSDI. Your DLI is calculated by counting your “quarters of coverage” from your earnings record. You must have 20 “quarters of coverage” of the last 40 quarters. Simply put, you must have worked 5 years of the last ten years (in general). In addition, Adult Disabled Children can be eligible for benefits off their parent’s account.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a need-based program and you must meet income/asset standards in addition to being found disabled under the five steps above. In 2023, SSI is $914.00 per month for an individual and $1,371 for an eligible couple. SSI will be reduced by 1/3 if you are receiving financial help from others. In NC, SSI recipients are also entitled to Medicaid.
SSI benefits are also available for disabled children and is evaluated under a different standard than adults. Children must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments (including emotional or learning problems) which result in marked and severe functional limitations, and the impairment(s) has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or be expected to result in death. Child SSI terminates when the child turns 18. The claimant will then have to reapply and be evaluated under the above adult sequential evaluation.
Does blindness qualify for disability benefits?
Blindness can qualify you for disability benefits, but as with all conditions under Social Security Disability, severity is key. Your vision loss must severely affect your ability to work in order for you to qualify for disability benefits.
After you apply for benefits , the Social Security Administration will use the Five Step Sequential Evaluation to evaluate your disability claim. At Step 3, SSA will use your medical records to evaluate your blindness under the Listings of Impairments.
Social Security defines statutory blindness under Listing 2.02 Loss of Visual Acuity OR Listing 2.03A Contraction of the Visual Field in the better eye.
- 2.02 Loss of Visual Acuity. Remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.
- 2.03 Contraction of the visual field in the better eye, with: A. The widest diameter subtending an angle around the point of fixation no greater than 20 degrees
If an individual meets one of the above two listings, there are special rules that apply.
- It is easier for a blind individual to return to work or work for the first time;
- there is no duration requirement if you are statutorily blind (Social Security’s basic definition of disability requires an impairment to last or be expected to last for 12 months or result in death)- this does not apply to the blind;
- and substantial gainful activity is at a higher amount than for non-blind individuals (Blind is $2,460 in 2023, while non-blind is $1,470).
- The statutorily blind are entitled to blind work expenses (BWE)
If you do not meet one of the above two listings, SSA does not consider you to be statutorily blind and the special rules do not apply to you.
SSA can also evaluate vision loss under Listing 2.04 Loss of Visual Efficiency. Listing 2.04 requires a visual efficiency percentage of 20 or less after best correction or a visual impairment of 1.00 or greater after best correction.
The issue for most people comes when they do not meet the above listings but are still unable to work due to their vision loss. In my practice, I have seen vision loss that happens over a prolonged period due to an underlying autoimmune disorder and occasionally the cause of the vision loss is never established.
Some other causes of vision loss are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, stroke, optic neuritis, vitreous hemorrhage, and retinal detachment. Vision loss is terrifying, no matter what the cause.
Also read Social Security Disability Conditions
If vision loss is attributed to an auto immune disorder, the side effects from medications used to treat the auto immune disorder may render a person disabled. For example, methotrexate and prednisone can cause severe side effects.
In addition, if your symptoms from all your impairments severely affect your ability to work, you may be found disabled based on the combination of your impairments if you can establish a disabling residual functional capacity.
Blind In One Eye Disability?
Vision loss in one eye, alone, usually does not result in a finding of disability. As you will note in the above listings, the remaining vision in the better eye will disqualify a claimant from receiving disability benefits. However, if your blindness was caused by an autoimmune disorder or other chronic impairment, you may be found disabled based on what caused your blindness.
Do you need a Disability Lawyer?
All work requires use of vision and if you are unable to see well enough to perform tasks, you may still be found disabled even if you are not found “statutorily blind.” The first step is to file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits as soon as possible and start your free case review.
We represent Social Security Disability clients in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids , Winston Salem, Garner, Greensboro, Greenville and surrounding areas in North Carolina Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.
Also read NC Social Security Disability Lawyer