by Lisa Giorgetti
While people who live with blindness often live rich and productive lives, it’s not uncommon for blindness to prevent an individual from maintaining gainful employment or making enough to live comfortably. Unfortunately, this lack of income can be a source of substantial financial stress. Luckily, Social Security Disability benefits are in place to help ease the financial burden caused by such a situation.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will compare your condition to a listing of conditions that are included in a publication known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains all of the conditions that could qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits, along with the criteria that must be met in order to qualify under each condition. Blindness is covered under Sections 2.02, 2.03, and 2.04 of the Blue Book; visit www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/vision-loss-and-social-security-disability.
- According to Section 2.02 of the Blue Book, which covers loss of visual acuity, applicants can qualify for benefits if the remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.
- According to Section 2.03 of the Blue Book, which covers contraction of the visual field in the better eye, applicants can qualify if the widest diameter subtending an angle around the point of fixation is no greater than 20 degrees or an MD is of 22 decibels or greater, determined by automated static threshold perimetry that measures the central 30 degrees of the visual field, or a visual field efficiency is 20 percent or less, determined by kinetic perimetry.
- According to Section 2.04 of the Blue Book, which addresses loss of visual efficiency, or visual impairment, in the better eye, the applicant must have a visual efficiency percentage of 20 or less after best correction or a visual impairment value of 1.00 or greater after best correction.
If your condition meets the above criteria, you will qualify for benefits under the corresponding section of the Blue Book. It’s important to provide medical records, along with your application, that proves you meet the criteria set forth in the Blue Book.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your nearest Social Security office. You will need to fill out a number of forms, including the Adult Disability Report and the other forms that make up a disability application. To fill out the forms online, go to www.disability-benefits-help.org/content/how-apply.
It’s important to fill out each form in its entirety and in detail. The more information and detail you can provide, the easier it will be for the SSA to understand how you qualify for benefits. When you submit this application to the SSA, it’s also recommended to submit medical evidence and written statements from treating physicians to support the claim in order to increase your chances of approval.
You will receive a decision regarding your claim approximately two to four months from the date of your application. If you’re awarded benefits, the notice will tell you when benefits will begin and how much you will be receiving each month. If the notice is of the SSA's decision to deny benefits, you have 60 days from the date received to file an appeal. It’s not unusual for an initial application for disability benefits to be denied. You can try to overturn the decision later through the appeal process.
If you do need to appeal a denial of benefits, you may want to retain a disability attorney to represent you in your appeal. As a general rule, applicants who utilize the services of a disability attorney have a greater chance of a successful appeal.
While you may need to appeal a denial of benefits, which will delay the start of payments, it’s important to note that a successful appeal means that you will be entitled to back pay from the SSA. This back pay will date back to the initial date of your disability application. This means that you won’t lose the money you would have received if your application had been approved initially.