Benefits available for various vision problems

Vision problems affect many children in Illinois. The American Optometric Association estimates one-quarter of children in America have vision problems. The American Foundation for the Blind reports over 50,000 children are legally blind. As any SSD lawyer in Illinois understands, these children and their families may face significant challenges. Fortunately, they may be eligible to receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits.

Evaluating visual disorders

The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” outlines criteria that childhood vision problems must meet to be considered disabling. A child who is legally blind automatically qualifies as disabled. Legal blindness is defined as central visual acuity less than 20/200 in the stronger eye after best correction. The SSA considers visual field diameter of less than 20 degrees equivalent to visual acuity of 20/200 or worse.

Children who do not suffer from legal or statutory blindness may still qualify for benefits. These children’s vision problems may be evaluated under the following Blue Book listings:

  • Loss of visual efficiency or visual impairment in the better eye. After best correction, visual efficiency must be less than 20 percent, or visual impairment value must be greater than 1.00.
  • Contraction of the visual field in the better eye. Kinetic perimetry must show a visual field efficiency of less than 20 percent. Alternately, static threshold perimetry must show a mean deviation of 22 decibels.
  • Central visual acuity without visual acuity testing available. Neuroimaging, electroretinography or examination must indicate low vision, eye injury or lack of nerve response.

As an SSD lawyer in Illinois knows, severe vision problems may also qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program. This program provides fast claim decisions and reduced evidence standards for conditions that usually are found disabling. Infantile bilateral optic atrophy, which affects the optic nerve, qualifies for the program. Bilateral retinoblastoma, or the formation of malignant tumors in retinal tissue, also qualifies.

Benefit options

Children with severe vision problems may qualify for SSI disability benefits if they meet income requirements. Children under age 18 cannot directly qualify for SSD benefits. However, if a parent collects SSD or retirement benefits, a child may collect dependent benefits. As any SSD lawyer in Illinois can explain, dependent benefits are available regardless of the child’s health. These benefits continue until the child turns 18 or the parent stops qualifying for benefits.

After age 18, children who collected dependent benefits may be entitled to an adult child’s benefit. This benefit is based off the earnings record of the qualifying parent. Alternately, children may qualify for SSD benefits based on their own earnings. In either case, children must meet adult financial and medical criteria, which are distinct from the SSA’s criteria for children.