Can I Work With Vision Loss?

Vision loss is a medical condition in which you lose your eyesight, entirely or in part. It almost goes without saying that there are many kinds of work which require you to have full use of your vision. Most kinds of work require a worker to be able to have eyesight on one level or another, even if it is aided by corrective lenses. Some jobs even have specific vision requirements, disqualifying people whose vision loss exceeds a certain level.

Experiencing vision loss can be tragic. In addition to the effects it can have on your ability to continue working, vision loss can touch practically every aspect of your life. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration recognizes vision loss as a medically identifiable cause of disability.

Because vision loss is a listed impairment in the Social Security Disability system’s Blue Book, there are solid principles in place for SSA administrators to use in determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on vision loss.

Generally speaking, when determining eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits for vision loss, the SSA will consider the effects of vision loss in the better of your two eyes. The things the SSA will consider about the better of your two eyes include:

  • Loss of efficiency of vision
  • Remaining visual acuity
  • Remaining peripheral vision

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on the listing for vision loss, both of your eyes must have worse than 20/200 vision even after wearing your prescribed eyeglasses of contact lenses. However, this doesn't mean that you necessarily can’t qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if your eyesight is better than this.

If you have suffered vision loss that isn’t quite as severe as the SSA listing, you may still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if your can demonstrate that your vision loss, combined with any other disabling conditions that you may have, makes it unreasonable to expect you to continue performing any kind of work that you have done before, or for which a person of your age and education level could reasonably be trained.

Total vision loss qualifies you for Social Security Disability benefits. Usually, complete vision loss is an open and shut case. If you are turned down for Social Security Disability benefits and your vision loss is complete (or even worse than 20/200 in both eyes) you should contact a Social Security Disability lawyer right away for help with your appeal.

Vision Loss and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

While vision loss may not directly impact your ability to perform such tasks as walking, pushing, pulling, lifting, and bending, it will most likely affect your ability to do any of these activities safely in a typical work environment. Most claimants have little trouble demonstrating that they are no longer capable of performing physical work if they have suffered significant vision loss.

However, if your vision is correctable, you are likely to be turned down for Social Security Disability benefits unless there are extenuating circumstances (such as vision loss combined with other medically verifiable physical or mental impairments) that cause your vision loss to disqualify you for all available work.

Vision Loss and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

Most of the sedentary work available requires being able to see. While vision loss doesn’t directly impact your ability to sit for long periods of time, it can certainly affect your ability to perform many of the typical work activities required for most sedentary jobs. Demonstrating that you are unable to perform available sedentary work is not generally difficult for those who have experienced severe vision loss.

Of course, milder forms of vision loss which can be corrected with eyeglasses or other enhancement devices are not likely to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits in and of themselves, though your vision loss may still be considered as part of a larger picture of disabling conditions if the combined effect renders you unable to perform any kind of physical or sedentary work for which you are qualified.

If you have questions about your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits due to vision loss or any other condition or combination of conditions, you should seek the advice of a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer. A Social Security Disability attorney can help you determine whether to press a Social Security disability claim, and can represent you at all stages of the Social Security disability claim and appeals process.

Qualifying for Vision Loss Under a Medical Vocational Allowance

In some cases, a diagnosis might not qualify for Social Security disability benefits because the diagnosis will not prevent the applicant from working entirely. However if the disability will prevent the applicant from performing duties expected in his job then the SSA will look to the medical-vocational guidelines to determine if the limitations meet the criteria.

The medical-vocational guidelines examine exertional and nonexertional limitations that would impact an applicant’s ability to work. The category of nonexertional demands include mental, postural, manipulative, communicative and environmental, while exertional demands include walking, sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling.

Under the guidelines, the applicant will be evaluated to determine whether he or she is able to perform sedentary work, light work and medium work. If someone is determined not to be disabled, then the guidelines will determine if that person can adjust to other work, and when the applicant is considered disabled the guidelines will determine whether the applicant cannot adjust to other work. The SSA will look at unskilled occupations that an applicant can perform, as well as transferable skills that can be used in other positions.

The SSA will look at the applicant’s age, education, work experience and residual function capacity (RFC), which determines the maximum amount of work an applicant can perform with the limitations stemming from the diagnosis. The RFC is important because it will help determine whether an applicant is capable of performing past work duties.

Medical Evidence You Will Need

The Social Security Administration uses the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security Listing of Impairments, commonly known as the Blue Book, to assess whether an applicant qualifies for disability benefits. The SSA will compare your diagnosis with the Blue Book, and they will also look at all of the information you provide in your application to make their final decision.

The Blue Book is very comprehensive but every case is different, so that’s why they evaluate each claim on its own merit. That’s also why your application needs to be as thorough as possible.

To qualify for benefits with vision loss, you must submit a copy of the medical report from your doctor outlining the diagnosis. The report should include all relevant tests, such as lab work and imaging, along with the treatment plan and any medications that are part of treatment.

You should also include any side effects you’re experiencing, as sometimes side effects can be as debilitating as an illness. With vision loss, you might use eye drops that trigger a reaction to bright light, for example, and this would be an important piece of information to include.

You will also be asked to sign a consent form to release your medical information to the SSA, and providing a list of providers and their contact information will help to expedite the process. Though the SSA will be able to contact your medical care providers, keep in mind that in most cases they will not request imaging results or lab test results, especially if a fee is involved, so it is in your best interest to provide as much documentation as possible.

Remember, the more information you provide, the more accurate the final decision on your claim will be.

How To Apply

There are three different ways to apply for Social Security disability benefits. The most expedient method of applying is to go online to the Social Security Administration website, create an account, and complete the application online.

You can also complete a paper application. You can print one from the SSA website or you can pick one up at your local SSA office, and once the application is complete you can either mail it in or take it to the SSA office to submit it in person. If you complete a paper application, make sure you make a copy of the document prior to submitting it so you have a record of it in case it gets lost in the mail.

One benefit to applying online is that your claim is considered active upon starting the application, rather than when the application is actually submitted. That means that any back pay you are owed will be based on the start date, which is very helpful. When filing by mail or in person, you can also submit a protective filing to establish your intent to file, and that will serve as your start date while you fill out the application.

Applying for Social Security disability benefits is a process that involves several steps and a great deal of documentation to support your claim. While the Social Security Administration is available for any questions you might have, they will not help you complete your application and so if you need help you might need to rely on family and friends, or an advocate who can act on your behalf.

Working With A Disability Lawyer

Some people choose to engage a Social Security disability attorney who can not only act as an advocate, but he or she is able to help gather your paperwork to ensure that your application is as complete as possible when you submit it. Social Security disability lawyers understand all of the many nuances of disability benefits and the application process, and though there is no guarantee that securing an attorney will guarantee that you will win your case, it certainly helps to increase the chances.

Working with an attorney is helpful because they have seen many cases and they know what kinds of applications have better chances of being approved than others, along with an understanding of the kinds of medical documentation you should present in your application in order to boost your chances of approval.

It’s important to note that many disability attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will not require payment unless you win your case. Others work on an hourly or flat fee structure, so be sure that you know what kind of fee structure your attorney uses. Complete the Free Case Evaluation today to get in touch with a lawyer that takes cases in your area.