Around 1.3 million US residents are currently declared legally blind. This diagnosis refers to those who experience less than 20/200 vision in their better eye or have a visual field of 20 degrees or less. While blindness brings with it enough difficulties and adjustments, approximately 70% of blind adults are also unemployed.
Fortunately, for those who are unable to work due to their blindness, Social Security disability benefits may be able to help. If you are unable to provide for yourself because of complications from your blindness, look below to see if you may qualify for benefits.
Step One: Determine how much your blindness limits you.
Blindness of all severities can cause several major changes to your lifestyle. When the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if you qualify for benefits, they need to know how much these changes prevent you from working and taking care of yourself.
For instance: if you are experiencing a loss of vision due to macular degeneration, your eyesight may be excessively blurred, especially in your center field of vision. This may make tasks like driving or working impossible, while making it extremely difficult to walk, cook, or clean unassisted. The more your blindness prevents you from providing for yourself, the more Social Security is likely to award monthly benefits to help.
Step Two: Consult the Blue Book and retrieve test results confirming the severity of your condition.
To evaluate applications, the SSA refers to the “Blue Book”, a guide which contains all Social Security-approved disabilities and the tests required to gain approval for them. For example, those who are declared legally blind with medical tests are considered automatically approved for disability benefits under section 2.00 of the Blue Book.
For those whose blindness is not listed in the Blue Book, do not worry — you are not disqualified from receiving benefits. This only means that, when applying, it is important to include as much medical evidence as possible to the SSA to prove that your blindness requires assistance. Evidence may include a visual acuity test, a cyclopegic refraction test (which studies the strength of pupil muscles), a visual response test, or a visual field test.
Step Three: Gather tax info, work history, and prepare to fill out the application.
The Social Security disability application requires all information that gives insight onto your life and how your illness affects you. This includes your Social Security number, addresses, references, medical documents, and even tax info and work history.
Tax information allows the SSA to see how much money you have contributed to Social Security in the years you’ve been working. To qualify for benefits, these contributions (called “credits”) must be equal to or higher than the expected contribution of someone of your age.
Work history is also provided to show the SSA what types of work you have experience in, when/if you stopped working, and whether or not your amputation prevents you from working similar jobs.
Contacting a Social Security Attorney
While it is possible to complete the process yourself, applying for disability can sometimes be overwhelming. If you feel that you may qualify for disability benefits, it is wise to consult with a disability advocate or attorney. They are an irreplaceable resource when filing out applications, keeping paperwork organized, and aiding you in the appeals process if necessary. It is also required by law that disability attorneys do not receive payment unless you win your case.
To give yourself the best chance at receiving the assistance you deserve, speak with a disability attorney today.