Blindness and Disability Benefits
The majority of Americans (approximately 61%) have some degree of visual impairment. While for most of us, glasses or contact lenses make it possible to live a normal, productive life, severe vision problems, such as full or partial blindness, can dramatically impact one’s ability to work in many occupations. It is no surprise that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, blindness and impaired vision are among the top ten most common causes of disability in the country.
If poor vision is limiting your ability to work and care for yourself, it is possible to apply for benefits under one of two Social Security disability programs. An experienced blindness disability attorney can help you prepare a claim that will increase your chances of a successful application.
Which Program Should I Apply to?
If you have previously worked a job where you paid into Social Security, you likely qualify for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. If you have never previously paid into Social Security (if your condition has prevented you from working in the past), you may meet the criteria for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is based on need rather than on your employment history.
When Does Blindness Qualify for Disability?
Regardless of which program you apply to, you will need to demonstrate that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. Disability for blindness requirements are covered under three different listings in the Social Security Administration Blue Book:
- Loss of visual acuity: Far- or nearsightedness in which vision in the better eye can’t be improved beyond an acuity rating of 20/200.
- Contraction of the visual field: Limited peripheral vision in both eyes, indicated by a visual field efficiency of 20% or less, a mean deviation of 22 decibels or greater, or a visual field with a diameter no more than 20 degrees from the point of fixation at its widest.
- Loss of visual efficiency: Poor depth perception or focusing skills, indicated by a corrected visual efficiency of 20% or less, or a corrected visual impairment value of 1.0 or more in the better of two eyes.
If you don’t qualify under any of the above listings, it may still be possible to obtain blindness disability benefits by completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. This will look at your skills, employment history and education to determine if there are any jobs you could be doing given the functional limitations of your condition.
One significant difference between the two programs is that people on SSI are generally eligible for Medicaid right away. On the other hand, someone on SSDI can receive Medicare coverage only after they have been receiving SSDI benefits for two years.
How a Blindness Disability Lawyer Can Help
Despite the dramatic effects that the loss of vision can have on one’s life, applying for blindness disability benefits is not always straightforward. Many people suffer from some degree of vision loss and are still able to maintain gainful employment. Thus, any SSDI or SSI claim for blindness disability must be supported by reports of visual testing with clearly noted diagnostic results.
Additionally, many SSDI and SSI claims are initially rejected due to a lack of proper paperwork or other technicality. Whether you’ve been denied benefits or are planning on filing for the first time, a lawyer who understand blindness disability law can be incredibly helpful.
Lisa M. Ritacco is a disability attorney for the blind who can help you get the benefits you need to live independently. Contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco in Delaware County, PA today to book your free initial consultation.