Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are designed to be a safety net for people who are suddenly out of options due to their physical or mental impairments. If you’re losing your vision as an adult or already suffer from partial blindness, maintaining any kind of employment can be very difficult.
Here’s what you should know about applying for — and getting — benefits:
1. Both SSI and SSD have the same definition of blindness.
Both programs use a standard definition of blindness when they evaluate a person’s condition. If your central visual acuity is affected, your vision must be 20/200 or worse, with correction, in your better eye to qualify for benefits. That means that if you are totally blind in one eye but have good vision in the other with glasses, you don’t qualify as “blind.”
If your peripheral vision is affected in addition to your central visual acuity, however, you may still have an overall loss of “visual efficiency” that does qualify as legal blindness. You may also qualify if your field of vision has sharply contracted, giving you only a narrow window of sight.
2. You can still qualify for benefits even if you don’t meet the definition of blindness.
Just because you don’t meet the definition of blindness used by Social Security, you shouldn’t give up on filing. The combination of your medical conditions — including the cause of your vision difficulties — may be enough to qualify you for benefits anyhow.
For example, if you have diabetic retinopathy and suffer from other serious problems related to your diabetes, both of those factors can be considered when you apply for benefits. If your vision problems have led to depression, that’s another condition that may be weighed when your claim is evaluated.
If you’re not able to work due to a visual impairment, find out more about how you can qualify for SSI or SSD. An attorney may be able to offer valuable assistance with your claim.