Going blind or losing your vision can make working and daily life much more difficult. However, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides essential monthly income to people who are unable to be employed due to blindness or substantial vision loss.
This guide will explain step-by-step how you can qualify for SSDI if your eyesight prevents you from working. Read on to learn about proving you meet the vision loss criteria, completing the application paperwork, and accessing additional assistance resources.
With the proper documentation and diligence, you can get approved for vital financial help through SSDI.
What Counts as Blind for SSDI Benefits?
To qualify for SSDI disability benefits based on blindness, your vision must meet the Social Security Administration's strict medical criteria. Specifically, your eyesight must be significantly impaired, with very limited visual acuity and field of vision measurements.
- You can only see 20/200 or less out of your better eye wearing glasses.
- Your full view side-to-side and up-and-down (visual field) in your better eye is 20 degrees or less.
A complete list of the SSA test for central visual acuity, peripheral vision loss, and other visual impairments can be found here.
While complete blindness clearly satisfies the criteria, substantial yet partial vision loss may also qualify if your ophthalmologist confirms your eyesight is poor enough to be considered legally blind under SSA guidelines. Ensure you undergo comprehensive vision testing to document the extent of your visual impairment.
Gather Medical Records to Prove You Qualify for Disability Benefits
Strong medical proof is important for qualifying for blind benefits. Make sure to have:
- Recent vision tests showing acuity and field of vision percentages for both eyes.
- Records of all eye exams, treatments, and surgeries so they can see if you're getting worse.
- Eye imaging tests that show permanent damage or disease.
- Statements from your eye doctor and other doctors saying you probably can't work because of how bad your eyes are and if they'll get worse.
Give records for any other health conditions too, like diabetes or arthritis, that also keep you from working when combined with vision issues.
Does Your Blindness Prevent Work Long Term?
In addition to meeting medical criteria, your visual impairment must satisfy Social Security's disability duration standard. Specifically, your blindness must be expected to prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful work activity for at least 12 consecutive months, or be considered permanent.
To demonstrate that your condition is unlikely to improve and will meet the duration requirement include:
- Provide medical evidence that illustrates a gradually progressive decline in your vision over a period of years. This pattern of deterioration helps establish your condition as ongoing.
- Submitting diagnostic reports and test results indicating permanent ocular damage or degeneration that is unlikely to respond positively to treatment over time.
- Have your ophthalmologist provide a statement affirming that your prognosis is poor and your vision will remain significantly compromised.
- Noting any failed surgeries, therapies, or assistive devices that were unable to improve your eyesight.
Filling Out the Application for SSDI
First, you call Social Security and apply over the phone, in person, or online. You'll need to provide personal, work, and medical details. Key steps:
- Answer every question on the disability forms about your health issues, jobs, and doctors.
- Give permission for your eye doctors, clinics, and hospitals to release all medical records to Social Security.
- List when and where you saw each doctor for vision treatment and each job you had the past 15 years.
- Explain how blindness keeps you from working by not being able to drive, read, see hazards, etc.
- Include written statements from people who know your condition like family, friends, caretakers.
- Quickly mail back any summaries Social Security sends you to sign.
After you apply, your state Disability Determination Services office reviews everything to approve or deny benefits based on being blind. This usually takes 3 to 6 months.
Working While Getting Social Security Disability Benefits
Some people collecting blind benefits want to try working if they can. If Social Security says you're legally blind, you can earn more money - $2,460 per month in 2023 - before your benefits are lowered.
Be Sure to Reach Out to the Social Security Administration (SSA)
However, Social Security has intricate rules regarding trial work periods and income reporting. Before starting a job, it is wise to speak with the Social Security Administration to ensure you understand how wages may affect your disability benefits.
Incorrect income reporting could inadvertently lower or complicate your payments. It is essential to fully disclose all earnings and work activities to Social Security to avoid potential benefit overpayments or other issues later on.
Other Help Besides SSDI You Can Get
Along with SSDI, other programs give more money, health insurance, and daily living assistance to the blind and visually impaired:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for people with disabilities and very low income/resources
- Medicare and Medicaid for health coverage after getting SSDI
- Special school services, job training & work incentives, workplace equipment
- SNAP, housing subsidies, utility discounts based on need and disability
- Tax credits and breaks to reduce costs
- Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to cut your cell phone and data bills
Make sure to look into every state and federal program out there beyond SSDI that can provide help to the sight impaired.
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How Free Cell Phone Service Can Help You
When you're sight-impaired, having cell phone service makes life way easier. You can:
- Use handy accessibility features like voice controls.
- Get apps that identify objects, text, and places using AI.
- Listen to navigation directions to get around safely.
- Hear audiobooks, podcasts, and music.
- Call family, friends, and doctors easily.
- Access health resources, education, and government services online.
Reliable wireless keeps you convenient, independent, and secure through cool mobile tech for the blind.
Organizations That Support the Blind Community
There are many national associations and nonprofits that help the blind and visually impaired. Use your free cell phone to connect with them:
- American Council of the Blind - resources, events, advocacy
- National Federation of the Blind - programs, scholarships, news
- American Foundation for the Blind - tools, support, research
- Independent living centers for advice on maximizing independence
- Local blindness networking and support groups
Let's Get You the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits You Deserve!
Going blind can be scary and make working feel impossible. SSDI gives essential financial help. Just be sure to fully document your disability and persist through the application process.
...And use free wireless service and blindness support groups to keep thriving.
With the right information and diligence, you can get approved for SSDI blindness benefits.