January 9, 2020

More than 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from vision loss each year. If you experience vision loss that is so severe that you can’t work, you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Disability benefits can help people who cannot work because of an illness or medical condition pay for basic living expenses. The only requirement that you have to meet in order to file a claim for Social Security disability benefits is that you expect your medical condition to keep you from working for at least a year. If you have vision loss that is so severe that you can no longer work you should file a claim for disability benefits. 

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits Because Of Vision Loss

You will need to prove that your vision loss meets the Social Security Administration’s criteria in order to qualify for disability benefits. All of the conditions that qualify for benefits, and the criteria that must be met, are listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. According to the Blue Book you can qualify for disability benefits due to vision loss if you have one of these: 

  • Loss of central visual acuity – this listing covers loss in your central field of vision and requires you see no better than 20/200 in your better eye. 
  • Contraction of the visual field in the better eye – you can qualify under this listing if you have a shrinking field of vision. Your doctor must measure your vision with specific tests and must record what you’re able to see when you’re focusing on a fixed point. This listing requires reports of your visual field, which is the distance in all directions from the fixed point on which you’re focused. That diameter must be no greater than 20 to 30 degrees. 
  • Loss of visual efficiency, or visual impairment – this listing covers issues that cause blurry or unfocused vision or an absence of vision. To qualify, you must have vision in your better eye that is no greater than 20/200 when wearing corrective lenses. 

In order to prove that you meet one of these requirements you will have to provide medical evidence like a doctor’s diagnosis and test results showing that your vision is significantly impaired. If you can’t work because of vision loss but you can’t meet one of these criteria you may be able to qualify for benefits with a Medical Vocational Allowance. 

Medical Vocational Allowance

If you can’t work because of your vision loss but you don’t meet the Blue Book requirements you can ask for a Medical Vocational Allowance that will allow you qualify for benefits. When you file a claim for disability benefits ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. This evaluation is something that the SSA does to see if there’s any kind of work that you can do with the symptoms or condition that you have. If the SSA finds that there isn’t any full-time work that you can do with your vision loss then you can still qualify for disability benefits. 

Getting the Application Started

The best way to start your application for disability benefits if you have vision loss is to make an appointment at your local SSA office. A staff member there can help you with the claim paperwork and submitting medical evidence. You can also have a friend or family member fill out the claim application for you if you are having trouble with it. 

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