There are varying levels of visual impairment up to and including legal blindness. Many times these impairments can make it difficult for those with the condition to find work and be able to adequately support them financially. For cases where blindness has become a burden up to that point, there can be help in the form of Social Security benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is a benefit that pays a benefit based on the claimant, or qualified family members, work history and payments to Social Security. If the minimum work and earnings requirements have been met then this program can be used.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is based on the income level and financial needs of a claimant. To qualify the claimant must have a sufficiently low enough income and lack of other assets showing the need for assistance. This program can be applied for regardless of work history, but both programs can be used in conjunction with each other if qualified.
Applying for Benefits Based on Vision
Being legally blind doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has no vision at all. The way the Social Security Administration (SSA) defines blindness that qualifies for benefits is that the vision of both eyes must be worse than 20/200 when corrected. Meaning that while wearing glasses, contacts or other corrective measures, neither eye sees better than 20/200. One eye may be much worse than that, as often both eyes aren’t impaired to the same extent, but the better eye must be at least that impaired. There is another qualifying factor as well, if the angle of vision is 20 degrees or less in both eyes then that can qualify the applicant as well, if vision is better than 20/200.
If you meet one or both of those qualifications above then applying for benefits can be accomplished in person, by phone or online via the SSA’s website. Before applying, ensure that a full medical history documenting the blindness is on hand and ready to be provided with the application. The records should show any diagnoses, when the condition was discovered, how long the condition is likely to persist and what limitations it creates for the applicant.
It generally takes three to six months to receive notification from the SSA regarding the application. If at any point in the process things are unclear or difficult to understand, or if benefits are denied, it is highly advisable to seek out a qualified attorney to help the claimant through the process. Most applications are denied at first, and the appeals process can be frustrating and time consuming, so having an experienced professional assist with the process can make it much easier to deal with.