Suffering with vision loss can make life challenging and make it impossible for you to work. If you're partially, legally, or totally blind, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
However, your reduced vision must be significant in order to qualify.
When You May Qualify for SSDI Benefits for Partial Vision Loss
The SSA Listing of Impairments, also known as the Blue Book, states requirements to be automatically eligible for benefits due to reduced vision. You may qualify if you suffer with low central visual acuity, which is the ability to see straight ahead clearly; a decrease in peripheral vision, not just in one eye, but both; or a combination of these two conditions.
You'll be considered totally blind if you have the absence of light perception in both eyes. This automatically entitles you to benefits.
The following details the SSA's determination of disability for benefits.
Central Visual Acuity
In order to qualify for a loss of central visual acuity, the vision in your best eye with correction must be 20/200 or less. To determine this, the SSA requires you to undergo an eye examination where you read letters on a chart from a certain distance not with your glasses but with lenses part of the eye doctor’s equipment. This is referred to as a Snellen chart test.
If your vision is 20/200 or less, you're considered legally blind. However, if your vision in one eye is 20/200 or less but your vision in the other eye is more than 20/200, you wouldn't be eligible for benefits under this listing.
Visual Field Efficiency
If you suffered a loss of peripheral vision, you're required to undergo a visual field test to determine the degree of reduction. In this test, you put your face in a chin rest, look ahead into a machine, and click a button when you notice a flash of light. Your responses are mapped out to determine how far you can see from a central point of fixation.
In order to meet the SSA’s eligibility requirements, test results in your best eye must be one of the following:
- Visual field efficiency that's 20 percent or less
- Widest diameter of your vision field that's no more than 20 degrees from the point of fixation
- Mean deviation of -22 or less
As with your central visual acuity test, if you have poor peripheral vision in one eye but not in the other, you wouldn't qualify for benefits.
If you're not eligible for benefits based on low central vision acuity or a loss of peripheral vision, you may qualify based on a loss of both types of vision. The SSA reviews your visual efficiency, which is the percentage that combines both types of vision. The impairment listing uses a complicated formula to determine this number.
If the loss of visual efficiency in your good eye with the best correction is 20 percent or less, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.
Partial Blindness That Affects Your Functional Abilities
If you suffer from partial blindness but didn't meet the SSA's impairment requirements as listed above, you may still qualify for benefits if your loss of vision affects your functional abilities.
The SSA is required to determine the effect of your vision loss on your ability to engage in your day-to-day activities and to work. If you no longer can perform your prior job, the SSA must consider whether you can work in any profession. Your prior work history, education, and age must be evaluated when making a determination on whether you're able do so. If not, you may be considered disabled.
Applying for SSDI benefits if you're partially or totally blind is complicated. Our experienced Social Security attorneys are ready to help you file a claim and fight to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. To get started, call our Ormond Beach office to schedule a free consultation.