The Social Security Administration has special incentives for people with partial or complete blindness.
When you apply for disability, the SSA will assign a disability examiner (DE) to analyze the 'severity' of your vision loss. The Social Security has special rules in the Red Book for the Blind for people with significant vision loss. If you have good vision in one eye, you won't be eligible to qualify for disability benefits.
Social Security Criteria for Benefits for the Blind
The SSA has two means of providing benefits to people with partial or complete blindness. Those approved for the benefits will get approved depending on the medical and non-medical requirements for their SSDI payment. If you do not meet the SSA's standard for visual acuity, or loss of your peripheral vision, you might not qualify for SSDI benefits. Instead, you'll qualify for medical-vocational allowance.
Note that all tests carried out by your physician should be done without glasses – your doctor would use lenses that are part of the testing equipment. For instance, commonly the DE would require you to have given the Snellen chart test, i.e., you would be asked to big and small letters from a chart at a certain distance away. Then, if the DE suspects that your vision is better than you say, such as, your eye tests show no abnormalities during an examination and you have no previous history of neurological damage, but you scored a low 20/200 on your 'Snellen' test. Your DE would then require you to undergo visual evoked response testing (test measuring brainwave responses to visual stimuli).
Note that if you are suspected to have an eye disease, such as cataracts, hypertensive retinopathy, retinal detachment, cancerous retinopathy, melanoma retinopathy, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or any other type of central retinal disease which could have been responsible for a loss in visual acuity for you.
Official Social Security Listing for Partial of Full Blindness
The SSA's Blue Book of impairment listings have a special section for social security eligibility criteria for the blind. In addition, the SSA also has a little Red Book for partial or full blind containing all the nitty gritty details of eligibility for the blind, no matter partial or full. The requirements vary for a loss of visual acuity and loss of peripheral vision (visual efficiency), and then there is also a third eligibility option with a combination of the two.
Loss of Peripheral Vision
If you have a poor visual efficiency you may qualify for SSDI. However, if your weak peripheral vision in addition to a loss of visual acuity, then your disability examiner will combine the results of these two into a cumulative percentage. Your percentage of visual acuity and peripheral vision will determine your eligibility for the SSDI, depending on how 'severe' your condition is.
Central Visual Acuity
The SSA defines blindness as a loss in your total visual score. A 20/20 is considered a 'normal' vision, whereas a 20/200 or worse is considered as partially or fully blind with combination in the vision of your better eye, with correction. This is called statutory blindess or partial blindness. Whereas a complete loss of vision (total blindness), is considered when a claimant experiences total absence of perception of light in the eyes.
**Note that total blindness almost always automatically qualifies for disability, unlike partial blindness which depends on a score of 20/200 or worse. Hence if you have a 20/200 in one eye, but no loss of vision in the second eye, then you would not qualify for disability.
Consult an Attorney
While there is a requirement for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claimants to have their condition to have lasted or expected to last for atleast 12 months, there is none for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you or your loved one is applying for disability benefits for blindness, you can consult legal help of our disability attorneys to ensure delays or rejection of your application.