Guest Writer: Molly Clarke
As humans, we use our five senses to guide us through life. Our ability to see, smell, hear, taste, and feel allow us to experience and navigate our surroundings. When one of our senses becomes compromised— eyesight in particular— we may have difficulty performing everyday activities.
Eyesight impairment, whether from birth or later on in life, can pose many difficulties. Along with the more expected obstacles that accompany vision loss, come less obvious complications—including financial distress. Conditions that cause vision impairment can often require expensive specialty treatment, medical care, and assistive technology. And while some individuals with vision impairment can continue working to earn a living, some cannot. If you find yourself in this position, struggling financially due to vision impairment, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Benefits
Each and every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) receives millions of claims for disability benefits. This influx of claims has resulted in a backlog of applications and extensive processing times. If an application is incomplete or inaccurate, it is likely that it will be among the 60 to 70 percent that are denied during the initial application stage.
You will then be required to file an appeal. If your initial application is denied and you choose to file an appeal, you may not see your first disability payment for more than two years. Therefore, it is crucial that you understand the Social Security Disability application process prior to submitting your
The SSA’s Criteria for a Vision Impairment
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the individual who reviews your claim will compare your condition to a listing in the SSA’s guide of disabling conditions, referred to as the Blue Book. The Blue Book includes information on the conditions that could potentially qualify an individual for disability benefits.
When you are applying for disability benefits due to loss of eyesight or vision impairment, you will be applying under sections 2.02, 2.03 and/or 2.04 of the Blue Book. In order to qualify for benefits, you must be able to prove through medical documentation that your disability meets the criteria of one of these sections.
Section 2.02 – Loss of Visual Acuity
Section 2.02 of the Blue Book deals with loss of visual acuity. To be approved for benefits under this listing, you must be able to prove that your remaining vision in your better eye is, after the best correction, 20/200 or less. This means that you must have vision of 20/200 or less in your better eye after the use of contacts, glasses or other corrective measures.
Section 2.03 – Contraction of the Visual Field
To be approved for benefits under Section 2.03 of the Blue Book, you must be able to prove that you suffer contraction of the visual field in both eyes and that the better eye has a visual angle around the point of focus of no greater than 20 degrees or that there is a visual field efficiency of 20 percent or less in the better eye.
Section 2.04 – Loss of Visual Efficiency
To be approved for Social Security Disability benefits under Section 2.04 of the Blue Book, you must be able to prove that the visual efficiency in your better eye is 20 percent or less as determined by kinetic perimetry.
Applying for Disability Benefits
When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important to understand what criteria you must meet in order to be deemed visually impaired by the SSA. This is important because it will give you a better idea of what medical evidence you will need to provide to support your claim.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a visual impairment, you will need to provide evidence that shows that you meet the criteria of one of the previously mentioned listings. It is important that you gather this medical evidence prior to submitting an application for Social Security Disability benefits so the SSA can see exactly how your impairment prevents you from working.
If you do not meet the specific criteria provided for in the Blue Book listing, you may still be able to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits solely based on your inability to work. This is called a medical-vocational allowance. In order to do so, you will need to use medical evidence, statements from your treating physician, and a residual functional capacity form to prove that your condition prevents you from performing any type of work activity.
Working with a Disability Attorney
When applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, it may be in your best interests to retain the services of a disability attorney. An attorney will work with you to properly prepare your claim forms and gather the necessary medical evidence to ensure that your claim is presented in the best light possible. This will give you the greatest chance of being awarded benefits during the initial stage of the application process, rather than having to endure the lengthy wait times associated with a disability appeal.
To begin the application process, visit the SSA’s website or make an appointment with your local Social Security office. Although applying for disability benefits can seem overwhelming and complicated, it is often a necessary step for many individuals.
Do not go into the process unprepared. Learn more at: Social Security Disability Help: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/blog.
By: Molly Clarke