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Visual Impairment

A visual disorder is an abnormality of the eye, the optic nerves, the optic tracts, or the brain that may reduce a person's ability to function. According to the National Federation of the Blind, approximately 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, and 75,000 people in the United States will become blind or visually impaired each year.[1]

Social Security Administration employs special rules for applicants claiming disability based on the loss of vision. To prove disability, claimants must show an inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to their severe medical impairment(s). The threshold of substantial gainful activity for non-blind applicants in 2018 is $1,180 per month, whereas blind applicants have a higher threshold at $1,970 per month.

Social Security Administration will consider a claimant to be legally blind if medical records establish that vision in the better eye cannot be corrected to 20/200 or better (Listing 2.02), or if visual efficiency is 20 degrees or less, even with corrective lens (Listing 2.04A). Many people who meet the legal definition of blindness still retain some sight and may be able to read large print or get around without the use of a white stick or service animal.

Claimants who do not meet the legal definition of blindness may still qualify for disability benefits if their vision problems alone or combined with other health problems prevent them from working a full-time job. Establishing disability in this way may require a vocational expert to testify that certain limitations have severely eroded the available occupational base. Typically, vocational experts recognize five limitations in vision, including far acuity, near acuity, depth perception, field of vision, and color. The need to avoid workplace hazards such as moving machinery or unprotected heights, or the need for a cane or assistive device for prolonged ambulation may also erode the occupational base in the national economy.

Apart from medical and vocational evidence, the claimant must meet all administrative requirements to receive their benefits. Claimants with severe visual impairments can request copies of their Social Security information in a variety of formats including print, braille, audio CD, and Microsoft Word on CD.


[1] https://nfb.org/fact-sheet-blindness-and-low-vision

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In Minnesota, we handle Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Throughout the nation, we handle SSDI applications and appeals for people from Ohio to Kansas, North Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between.

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