Living and Thriving

May 26, 2020

How To Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits With Vision Loss

A guide to receiving Social Security Disability Benefits if you have vision loss or are legally blind.

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by Rachel Gaffney
Outreach Specialist
rsg@ssd-help.org

People who have vision loss or are legally blind can receive Social Security Disability benefits as long as the condition is expected to last a year or longer. Vision loss due to accident, illness, or injury qualifies for benefits as long as the vision loss meets the Blue Book standards for vision loss. The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” lists specific criteria that must be met in order for vision loss to qualify for benefits. According to the Blue Book the vision loss must meet one of these criteria:

  • You have statutory blindness or are legally blind.
  • You have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or loss in your better with the use of a corrective lens. This means that when you are wearing glasses or contacts your central visual acuity in the stronger eye must be 20/200 or less. You can also qualify if your field of vision is limited to 20 degrees in the stronger eye after correction.

There are stringent standards listed in the Blue Book for qualifying for benefits under these criteria. However, if you have vision loss due to injury or illness that doesn’t meet one of those two criteria you still can receive benefits. To do so, your vision loss must make it impossible for you to continue to work in your field or complete the work that you have received training for. If your vision loss limits your ability to work but doesn’t meet the standards set in the Blue Book you can ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation.

Residual Functional Capacity

Anyone who has vision loss that is severe enough that they can no longer do their job can still quality for Social Security Disability benefits if the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation shows that they can’t perform any other type of work due to their limited vision. An RFC evaluation will determine if there are other types of work that you can do. You can download an RFC form online.

For example, if your vision loss means that you can no longer drive and your previous job required making deliveries, it may be argued you are still be able to work in a different field or position that doesn’t involve driving. If the RFC evaluation determines that you cannot work or that you cannot safely and comfortably do another type of work then you can still receive Social Security Disability payments for your vision loss.

Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online at any time. If you have trouble seeing the computer or filling out on the online application you can apply in person at your local SSA office. You can also have a friend, family member, caregiver or advocate help you fill out the application for benefits.  You will need medical documentation from your doctor to support your claim and you may need to have additional vision tests done to document your vision loss. Once your application is completed it should only take 3-5 months to be processed.

Sources Cited:

SSA’s Blue Book: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm

Vision Loss Listings: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/2.00-SpecialSensesandSpeech-Adult.htm

Residual Function Capacity: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/blog/residual-functional-capacity-what-is-rfc

RCF Form: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms/images/SSA4/G-SSA-4734-U8-1.pdf

Online Application: https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/dib

SSA Office Locator: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/state-social-security-disability

About the Author

Rachel Gaffney is an Outreach Specialist at Disability Benefits Center, an independent organization dedicated to helping people of all ages receive the Social Security disability benefits they deserve. She currently lives in Boston, Mass. but helps those seeking assistance nationwide. If you have any questions on this article or would like a little more information on how to qualify for disability benefits, she can be reached at rsg@ssd-help.org.