Understanding Social Security Benefits

Unexpected vision loss usually presents a transition. It’s common to find yourself not being able to work. In some cases, retinal detachments caused by diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration require eye surgeries. If this happens to you or a loved one, there are resources for the blind like social security benefits can help ease the financial strain.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees two different disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Working and paying social security taxes generally qualifies you to receive SSDI benefits. The SSA awards SSI benefits based on financial need.

Gathering appropriate medical documents about the severity of your condition will decrease your chance of receiving a denial. However, many applicants are not accepted the first time they apply. Under the SSA’s definition of disability, an applicant must no longer be able to perform their job duties because of their medical condition. Review the full definition carefully before you apply for benefits because it differs from other definitions.

The SSA defines blindness as central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, or a limitation in the field of vision in the better eye so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less. To qualify for SSDI, your visual impairment must last for at least 12 months.

SSA uses a medical guide called the Blue Book to determine if an individual is disabled or not. Meeting the requirements under the Blue Book’s vision listings may approve you for disability benefits. Your doctor can help you understand these requirements. Highlights in the listing include: Loss of Central visual acuity, Contraction of the visual fields in the better eye and Loss of visual efficiency. Reference the specific visual guidelines in the 2.00 Special Senses and Speech Adult section of SSA’s Blue Book.

If you do not qualify for benefits under the Blue Book’s vision guidelines, there are still other resources for the blind you can still be approved using a medical-vocational allowance. This approach uses your symptoms, side effects, educational background, age, work history and skills to determine your benefit eligibility. Your physician completes a residual functional capacity (RFC) form to determine if you are able to work and lists all restrictions and limitations.

Apply for social security benefits if your vision loss keeps you from working. Fill out an application at your local SSA office or apply online using the SSA website. Ask a friend or family member to help you complete the form. Be prepared to wait three to five months to receive a response from your application.

Disability benefits provide financial stability during life-altering changes. Use all resources for the blind available to you. When you are ready, Outlook Enrichment adaptive technology trainers can show you how to navigate the Internet and other programs with limited vision to help with this transition. Technology skills can help you manage your social security application status and other daily items like online banking.