Disability Benefits For Vision Loss or Blindness

Over 7 million Americans, adults and children of all ages, have vision loss severe enough to technically qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. People with visual impairments may have difficulties with activities of daily living such as walking, driving, reading, and socializing. Many of these disabled individuals are in need of help and are unaware that they may qualify for disability benefits.

Vision loss can range from total blindness to simply being prescribed glasses for partially vision loss. There are many known causes for vision loss; the most common include:

• Cataracts
• Cytomegalovirus
• Diabetic Retinopathy
• Glaucoma
• Macular Degeneration
• Presbyopia
• Refractive Errors
• Trachoma

An applicant can only receive disability benefits if their vision loss is significant enough to prevent them from working. If an applicant has good vision in one eye but is completely blind in the other, he or she will most likely not qualify with that impairment alone.

Requirements to Qualify for Vision Loss

For an applicant to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for a visual impairment, he or she must be considered legally blind and meet one of the two following requirements from the Blue Book:

Section 2.02: The applicant must have vision worse than 20/200 in the better eye. This is also the definition of being “legally” blind.

Section 2.03: The applicant must have a level of peripheral field vision less than 20 degrees in the better eye.

The SSA requires that an applicant submit medical evidence provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist that proves his or her visual impairment matches one of the requirements. If an applicant does not meet either of these requirements, he or she needs to be able to prove that their visual impairment prevents them from working and being able to complete activities of daily living.

Special Rules for Applicants who are Blind

The SSA has set forth special rules for individuals who have low vision or are blind. These rules make it easier for applicants to qualify and receive disability benefits. Listed below are the most important rules to note:

  • Legally blind applicants may receive a higher state supplement for SSI depending on the state they live in.
  • Legally blind applicants have a different SGA (substantial gainful activity) limit than non-blind applicants (which is currently $1,090 per month). Blind applicants can work and earn up to $1,820 per month and still qualify for disability benefits.
  • Legally blind applicants who are totally blind (meaning they cannot perceive any light in either eye) may qualify for presumptive blindness and have their benefits awarded much quicker than normal.


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