Does SSA Qualify Blindness as a Disability?
Get approved for Social Security disability benefits for blindness in two ways: through medical evidence alone or through both medical and vocational factors. To assess medical claims, Social Security has three “listings” for vision loss. These listings examine your level of visual acuity and peripheral vision to determine eligibility. Just because your vision loss doesn’t fall under Social Security’s listings, it doesn’t mean you are not eligible for disability benefits.
You could still be entitled to support through a “medical-vocational allowance.” By demonstrating that you cannot safely perform any available job due to your vision loss, you can qualify for benefits based on your age, education, and experience. Explore this alternative option to get the support you need today.
How Do I Get Approved for Benefits with Blindness?
People with decreased vision may have restrictions on the type of work they can do, depending on their best-corrected vision. These restrictions might include not working near hazardous machinery, operating hazardous machinery, or driving, and could also include a restriction on heavy lifting if a person has a detached retina or is at risk of a detached retina. When Social Security considers whether someone with vision loss can work, they will look at the individual’s age, education, and work experience to determine if there is alternate work available that doesn’t require driving or 20/20 vision.
In order for disability benefits to be approved based on visual acuity, medical evidence from an ophthalmologist or optometrist must be provided. The evidence must include a Snellen chart test to measure visual acuity as well as peripheral vision testing. If Social Security doubts the accuracy of the results, they may request visual evoked response testing which measures brainwave responses to visuals shown by the doctor. Additionally, if a person is diagnosed with an eye disease, their medical records should also reflect the diagnosis and any treatments received.
Social Security has several rules in place that apply to legally or totally blind applicants which do not apply to non-blind applicants. For instance, some states provide a higher supplement for legally blind individuals on SSI benefits. Legally blind workers on SSDI can earn up to $2,460 in 2023 and still be considered disabled while blind SSI claimants are not subject to the SGA limit. If a person is over 55 and legally blind, their income won’t be considered SGA as long as the work requires less skill or ability than it did prior to becoming disabled. Additionally, Social Security grants immediate SSI benefits for those who are severely disabled and likely to be approved. Special blind work expenses can also be excluded from earned income for SSI benefits.
Finally, a person with vision loss may be able to file for a disability freeze which would freeze their earnings record prior to the point of disability. This could potentially result in higher benefits when applying for disability or retirement benefits. It is important to contact Social Security in order to apply for a disability freeze.