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Posted: 2/3/2014

Vision Loss and Social Security Disability Benefits
While vision loss may be an ordinary part of aging, severe cases can make it incredibly difficult to maintain employment. If you find yourself unable to work due to vision loss, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can be used to help cover costs associated with daily living, assistive devices, and routine medical expenses.

Prior to submitting an application for disability benefits, it is important to understand your options. The following article will provide you a general overview of the two main benefit programs and will prepare you to submit your application.

Social Security Disability Benefit Programs

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the two of the largest federal benefit programs in the United States.

The first, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is intended to provide financial assistance to disabled working adults and their families. To qualify, SSDI applicants will need to have sufficient employment history and past Social Security tax contributions. Only applicants who have paid Social Security taxes from their wages will qualify for SSDI benefits. For more information about applying for SSDI, visit the following page:

The alternative is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which assists elderly and disabled individuals who have demonstrated financial need. Applicants for SSI will be asked to submit part of their finances-income and resources, for evaluation. You will only qualify for SSI if you fall within the SSA's financial limits. For more information about SSI eligibility, visit the following page:

Definition of Disability

Anyone seeking SSDI or SSI benefits must first meet the SSA's definition of disabled. This means that you must have a long-term condition that renders you unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2014, a person is considered to be engaging in SGA if he or she earns $1,800 or more in a single month. It is important to note that SGA for blind individuals is higher than SGA for those with other types of disabilities.

If you do not meet the SSA's definition of disabled, you will not be eligible to receive disability benefits from either program.

Medical Eligibility

The SSA also requires that applicants meet criteria specific to their disability. These medical criteria are published in a guidebook of disabling conditions-referred to as the Blue Book. You must meet the blue book listing for your impairment before you can be awarded benefits. If you are unable to meet a particular listing, or no listing exists for your condition, you can also qualify by matching the severity of an existing listing.

Vision loss or impairment is evaluated under Blue Book section 2.00- Special Senses and Speech. Under this section you will find three subsections dedicated to the evaluation of vision loss. To qualify for benefits, you must meet the specific symptoms listed under one of the following sections:

2.02-Loss of Visual Acuity
2.03-Contraction of the Visual Field in the Better Eye
2.04-Loss of Visual Efficiency, or Visual Impairment, in the Better Eye

When reviewing these listings, you will note that they are written using highly medical language. If you do not understand the listing or cannot tell if you qualify, it may be in your best interest to consult your doctor. He or she will be able to explain the listing in more understandable terms and can help you conduct the tests necessary for eligibility.

Application Preparation and Submission

If you find that you meet the technical and medical requirements to receive disability benefits, you should begin preparing to submit your application. You will need to collect documentation to support and validate your claim. This will include medical records, employment records, tax information, and income statements. To view a complete list of the documents you will need, visit the Adult Disability Interview Checklist.

To fill out and submit the application, you can visit the SSA's website or call their main phone number. The application is made up of several different forms-each of which will require thoroughly detailed and accurate information. The SSA maintains website accessibility and will try their best to make any other accommodations that you need during the Social Security Disability application process.

Once you submit your application, it will likely take at least three months-often longer-before you receive a decision. In most cases, first time applications are denied. If your application is denied, you will have 60 days in which you must start the appeals process. If you do not file an appeal within this window of time, you will be required to start the application process over.

If your application is denied, do not give up. Although it may be discouraging to face the appeals process, more applicants are approved during appeals than during the initial application submission. Increase your chances of success by remaining organized and persistent.

For more information about applying for disability with vision loss or impairment, follow this link.

Contributor: Molly Clarke -

All reports are informational only and represent the views of the writer. Always consult with your medical doctor before following the advice of third parties.

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