According to data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, 26.9 million American Adults age 18 and older reported experiencing vision loss.

While there are no accepted definitions for “vision loss” or “visually impaired”, the survey consisted of those who reported they have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, and individuals who reported they are legally blind. The statutory definition of “legally blind” is that central visual acuity must be 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best correction or that the visual field must be twenty degrees or less.

While visual impairment causes physical difficulties and adjustments, it can also interfere with one’s ability to work and maintain their financial independence.

If you experience partial or total visual impairment which affects your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Vision Impairment and SSDI

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a 5 step process they use to determine a claimant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits. Those filing an SSDI claim for vision impairments must go through the following process:

  1. Determine if the claimant is working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2021 is a monthly income of $1,310 for non-blind applicants in $2,190 for blind applicants.
  2. Determine if the claimant’s complications from their vision impairment significantly limits their ability to perform basic work activities such as
  • sitting
  • standing
  • reaching
  • pulling or pushing
  • lifting or carrying
  • simple cognitive reasoning
  1. Determine if complications from claimant’s vision impairment meets the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list.

To qualify for disability benefits, you must have medical records which show that your vision impairment meets one of the following listings:

Loss of Central Visual Acuity (2.02)–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 (2.03)–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. In other words, your visual field must be very narrow.

Loss of Visual Efficiency, or Visual Impairment (2.04)–this listing covers issues that cause blurry or unfocused vision or absence of vision (total blindness). To qualify, you must have vision in your better eye that is no greater than 20/200 when wearing corrective lenses.

  1. Determine if the claimant can still do any work they may have done in the past despite the complications caused by their vision impairment.
  2. Determine if the claimant can do any other work based upon their:
  • age
  • education
  • prior work experience
  • mental and physical capabilities

Getting Help with Your Vision Impairment Claim

Do you experience partial or total vision impairment that affects your ability to work? You could receive disability benefits each month to help you with your expenses.

While you can file your claim on your own, there are specific requirements you must meet and documentation you must provide. An experienced disability attorney will know how to help you gather the best information to prove your claim.

Brock & Stout’s disability lawyers have over 20 years of experience helping clients with vision impairments get the benefits they need. Contact us for a free evaluation and let us see if we can help you. We will work with you through the entire process to ensure that you get the best help possible.