Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder of the eye, which affects the rods and cones of the retina. This disorder is progressive, and gradually weakens the peripheral vision, and in some cases the central field of vision. While the damage does worsen over time, few individuals with this disorder are rendered totally blind. The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa may include:
- Night vision problems in the early stages
- Trouble seeing and focusing in low light
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Loss of central vision in more severe cases
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Retinitis Pigmentosa
In the beginning stages of retinitis pigmentosa, individuals may need to refrain from driving at night, and may have difficulty reading in low light, but as the disorder progresses, as does the vision loss. In advanced cases of retinitis pigmentosa, it is not unusual to experience severely affected side, or peripheral vision, followed by affected central vision. If your vision loss progresses to the point where you can no longer safely or effectively function at a job, you should consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits in order to support yourself financially.
The SSA has what is often referred to as the blue book, which simply lists medical conditions, as well as the requirements for qualifying for benefits. Retinitis pigmentosa is not a condition that is specifically listed in the blue book, but there is a category for individuals who have experienced peripheral or central vision loss. In order to receive approval for benefits, you must be able to prove that your vision loss meets the requirements of at least one of these listings.
How the SSA Evaluates Retinitis Pigmentosa
There are two listings in the Social Security Disability blue book that may pertain to your vision loss: loss of peripheral vision and loss of central vision. In order to qualify under the loss of peripheral vision listing, you must meet at least one of the following requirements in your better eye:
- The widest diameter of your visual field is no more than 20 degrees from the point of fixation.
- You have a visual field efficiency of 20% or less.
- You have a mean deviation of -22 or worse, measured by automated static threshold perimety.
If you have experienced central vision loss, you may be able to qualify for SSD benefits by demonstrating that you are what is considered legally blind. To meet the low vision or partial blindness requirement, your better eye must have vision equal to or worse than 20/200 vision.
If you do not meet any of the previously stated requirements, but your retinitis pigmentosa symptoms or treatments otherwise make it impossible for you to work, you may still be able to receive approval for Social Security Disability benefits if you can provide strong medical evidence.
Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney When Applying for Benefits
Even if you feel that you have a strong case, it is imperative to enlist the services of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney when completing the application process. By doing so, you can avoid costly mistakes that frequently cause delays or rejections. A qualified and knowledgeable attorney will help you submit a complete and accurate application the first time and represent you at your hearing if necessary.