Individuals who have very low vision, are legally blind or fully blind can receive special benefits if their disability prevents them from being able to work. The Social Security Administration offers benefits to blind or vision impaired via two different programs: the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
Both of the above programs use the same rules for establishing blindness. If your vision is uncorrectable beyond 20/200 in at least one eye, or if you suffer from a visual field of 20 degrees or under, you can qualify as legally blind. Individuals who are not technically blind, and suffer from very low vision, can also receive disability benefits, so long as their vision issues and any other health issues result in an inability to work.
When it comes to SSI benefits for normal disability, it is vital the individual worked in a job long enough to have paid Social Security taxes. However, if the SSI benefits are based on blindness, it is okay if the person did not work as long as his or her resources and income are below certain limits.
As for Social Security disability, when you are working, you are earning credits that go toward your Social Security benefits in the future. Blind individuals also earn these credits during the years they worked, and they will continue to earn the credits if they keep working after they are blind. It is important to have a sufficient number of credits in order to qualify for disability benefits. If credits are lacking, individuals may be able to receive benefits based on their parents' or spouses' work histories.
Blind individuals in Minnesota may also be able to qualify for certain state or local programs for the blind, so familiarizing oneself with local laws and benefits programs can also be helpful.
Source: Social Security Administration, "If You’re Blind Or Have Low Vision— How We Can Help," accessed May. 29, 2015