Low Vision Social Security Disability: A Guide to Getting Your Benefits

Individuals with low vision or vision impairment may qualify for social security disability benefits. Learn about the qualifications for getting social security disability (SSD) benefits if you have low vision or vision impairment and cannot work.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits for Low Vision

Having low vision refers to a condition in which you suffer vision impairments that are permanent and not correctable by wearing glasses or contacts or by taking medications and having surgical procedures. Low vision can result from a medical condition or it may be attributed to the aging process. In either case, it can make it difficult to work or perform certain tasks at your job. In these situations, you may be entitled to social security disability benefits (SSDI).

SSDI provides wage replacement benefits if you are unable to work completely as the result of low vision. In some cases, it can even provide a vocational allowance if you do continue to work, which can help offset any additional income you might have earned had it not been for your impairment. At Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo, our Pennsylvania social security attorneys are here to advise you on SSDI requirements while providing the legal guidance you need in filing a claim.

What Is Low Vision?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), low vision is a type of permanent impairment that can be caused by a disease, an injury, or as the result of age. While not as severe as complete blindness, it can impact your ability to see to the point that performing tasks such as reading, writing, going to the store, driving, or working can be difficult, if not impossible to do. Signs of low vision include:

  • Difficulty recognizing people or faces;
  • Problems reading, cooking, watching television, or performing household tasks;
  • Problems in choosing appropriate clothing that matches;
  • Perceiving it as being dark or as if the lighting is dim, even when it is not;
  • Having difficulty reading traffic signals, the names of streets or signs at stores.

For people with low vision, glasses, contacts, medications, and procedures such as Lasik generally do little to improve the condition. In many cases, vision loss gets progressively worse over time. It is important to see a doctor or optometrist at the first sign of any of the above symptoms. If not caught early, it could result in a complete loss of sight.   

Low Vision SSDI Requirements

When you suffer disabilities that impact your ability to work and provide for yourself, income replacement benefits may be available through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both are federally funded, but SSI is a needs-based program while SSDI, as a type of insurance, is provided based on taxes you paid through your paycheck as a worker.

You can find information on benefits you may be entitled to in one of our previous posts, How Social Security Disability Insurance in Pennsylvania Works. In order to be eligible for these benefits, SSDI requirements regarding past employment factor in two tests. The recent work test is based on your age and the date you stopped working as the result of your disability, while the duration of work test is based on the specific period of time you were employed. As part of the SSDI application process, your eligibility based on these requirements will be determined by your local SSA office.

If you meet SSDI requirements pertaining to employment, your application will be referred to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD). There, your medical condition will be assessed to determine if you fall under the list of covered SSA impairments. By law, a disability is a condition that either prevents you from working for at least a year or one that is expected to eventually result in your death.

Disability Benefits for Vision Impairments

SSDI requirements for blindness and vision impairments are somewhat different than they are for other types of disabilities. You may be eligible for benefits if you have 20/200 vision in either eye that cannot be corrected, or if you have a visual field of 20 degrees or less in your better eye. This can be the result of conditions which include the following:

  • Cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye lens;
  • Glaucoma, which is a disease that causes damage to your optic nerves;
  • Macular degeneration, which is often age-related and results in damage to your retina;
  • Diabetic retinopathy, which causes retinal damage due to high blood sugar levels.

Determinations for meeting SSDI requirements are made based on information provided through doctor, hospital, and optometry records, along with any diagnostic testing that may have occurred. In making these assessments, the amount of vision impairment in each individual eye is highly relevant. If it is determined that vision loss mainly affects only one eye, your claim for social security benefits will not be approved based on vision impairment.

Even if your condition does not meet SSDI requirements for vision impairment, you may be entitled to a medical vocational allowance if you have a severe enough impairment that it prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA) or past relevant work you would do as part of your job.  

SSDI and Working With Vision Loss

If you are approved for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration provides incentives that allow you to continue to work despite your vision loss. While these are available for people with any type of disability, the incentives for vision impairments provide greater flexibility and allow for higher earnings:

  • If you are receiving SSDI for vision impairment, you may be able to earn up to $1,970 per month, according to 2017 figures, while continuing to receive your benefits. If you receive SSDI for a disability that is not vision related, this amount is decreased to $1,170 per month.
  • If you receive SSDI and working on behalf of your own business and are self-employed, the SSA does not evaluate the hours you work the same way it does for people with other types of disabilities. Provided you do not earn above the $1,970 amount, you can work as many hours as you like.
  • For those with vision impairments who are over the age of 55 and earning above income limits, your benefits will be suspended, rather than terminated completely. This could allow you to continue receiving SSDI during any month your income falls below this level.

How Our Social Security Disability Attorneys Can Help You

Obtaining social security disability benefits for vision impairments is often a complicated and confusing process. At Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo, we can help you gather the information need to file your application while guiding you to help ensure you meet all SSDI requirements.

Contact our office today at (844) 243-4814 for request a free consultation with our experienced Pennsylvania social security benefits attorneys. We have been assisting people throughout the area for over three generations, and act as a trusted legal advocate on your behalf throughout the entire process.

Whether you are just now experiencing symptoms or have been dealing with ongoing problems associated with vision loss and your overall health, our legal experience gives you an edge in getting the benefits you need to provide for yourself and your loved ones. With 12 offices to serve you throughout Pennsylvania, we can help you get the benefits you deserve. 

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