Claiming benefits with a Social Security Lawyer

At least 3.4 million Americans over the age of 40 are visually impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 21 million Americans may be at risk for vision loss due to existing health issues. Many people in Illinois may struggle to perform their jobs or other daily tasks because of visual impairments. Fortunately, as a Social Security lawyer knows, severe visual disorders may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Qualifying conditions

Several visual disorders are included in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book.” A condition is automatically considered disabling if it appears in the Blue Book and meets listed requirements. The Blue Book recognizes the following conditions as disabling:

  • Visual field contraction with a field no wider than 20 degrees
  • Limited visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the stronger eye
  • Low visual efficiency of 20 percent or less
  • Visual impairment with a value of at least 1.00

All of these requirements refer to visual ability after best correction. If a person meets the criteria for visual acuity or visual field contraction, the person qualifies as statutorily blind. The SSA makes various special provisions for individuals with statutory blindness. These include higher monthly earnings limits, different rules for benefit reinstatement and special guidelines for counting work history.

People with visual disorders that do not meet the Blue Book criteria may still receive benefits. As any Social Security lawyer can explain, these individuals may qualify for medical-vocational allowances. The SSA awards this type of allowance based on an evaluation of how a disability impedes a person in working. Allowances may be awarded when visual disorders render people unable to perform any work they are reasonably qualified for.

Evidence requirements

People claiming SSD benefits for visual disorders must provide documentation to establish the existence of the disorder. People seeking medical-vocational allowances must also show how the disorder prevents gainful employment.

The Blue Book specifies several acceptable forms of evidence for people who may qualify for benefits based on listing terms. The Blue Book also requires applicants to document the cause of loss of visual field or visual acuity. Typically, the results of a standard eye examination indicate this cause. If not, the SSA may ask for additional information.

People seeking medical-vocational allowances must prove their vision impairments interfere with their daily functioning. As any Social Security lawyer can verify, secondary documentation to supplement objective evidence is often necessary. A physician can complete a Residual Functional Capacity form to describe how a disorder limits a person’s functional abilities. Personal statements from the applicant and close acquaintances can also help illustrate the daily effects of the visual disorder.