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Blindness, Glaucoma, and Disability Benefits

Published on March 29th, 2024

Vision-based medical conditions affect millions in the U.S., creating significant challenges in daily life and work. The CDC reports around 6 million Americans have a visual disability. While many Americans can work and conduct substantial gainful activities (SGA) with accommodations, many who face significant partial or complete vision loss cannot.

That’s when achieving Social Security disability benefits can help. While someone who is blind might have a less challenging time achieving the requirements for disability, that doesn’t always mean the application process moves faster.

It’s important to understand the requirements and seek legal assistance if you’re applying for disability benefits with a vision impairment.

Young blind woman reading book written in Braille at home with white cane . Blind person reading book written in Braille. Young blind woman reading a braille book while studying and sitting at home

What Is The Requirement To Get Disability For Vision Problems?

To become eligible for Social Security disability benefits involving an eye condition, you must meet specific criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Blindness, glaucoma, and several other visually impairing conditions are usually expected to last more than 12 months, which is one of the bare minimum requirements for most disabling conditions.

The other requirements can vary based on the severity and type of vision impairment you’re facing.

Blindness and Social Security Disability

Legal blindness is a condition that can qualify for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines legal blindness with specific criteria:

  • Visual Acuity: If your vision in the better eye, even with corrective lenses, is 20/200 or worse.
  • Field of Vision: If your field of vision is restricted to 20 degrees or less.

To prove legal blindness, comprehensive eye exams, and medical records are essential. These tests typically include:

  • Visual Acuity Test: Measures clarity or sharpness of vision.
  • Peripheral Vision Test: Assesses the extent of your visual field.
  • Eye Specialist Reports: Detailed evaluations from ophthalmologists or optometrists.

Glaucoma and Disability Benefits

Glaucoma can also be a qualifying condition for disability benefits. It’s a condition where increased eye pressure leads to vision loss, primarily affecting peripheral vision. To qualify:

  • Loss of Peripheral Vision: Documented through field vision tests.
  • Reduced Visual Acuity: Not just the clarity of vision but also how well you see at distances and read small print.
  • Medical Records: Ongoing treatment records, including medication, surgery, or other therapies.

For both conditions, the SSA evaluates:

  • Duration of the Condition: While there’s no specific time limit to endure the condition before applying, ongoing and consistent medical treatment is crucial.
  • Impact on Work: Detailed documentation of how your vision impairment affects your ability to perform jobs you’re qualified for.

Can You Get Disability For Cataracts?

Cataracts are a common vision impairment in the United States, with millions of people developing this condition each year. While cataracts can lead to significant visual impairment, not everyone with cataracts will be eligible for disability benefits.

The Impact of Cataracts

  • Prevalence: Cataracts primarily affect older adults, with a significant portion of the aging population experiencing some degree of cataract development.
  • Impairment: Cataracts cause the lens of your eye to become cloudy, which can severely impair vision. This impairment can make it challenging to perform work-related tasks, especially those requiring clear vision.

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

  • Severity: To qualify for disability benefits, cataracts must cause severe visual impairment. This means that even with corrective measures like glasses or contact lenses, a person’s vision remains significantly affected.
  • Functional Limitations: The condition should limit the individual’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. For example, if cataracts prevent someone from safely operating machinery or reading fine print necessary for their job, this could be grounds for disability.

Necessary Medical Evidence

  • Visual Acuity Test: A test to measure how well you can see at distances.
  • Slit-lamp Examination: A detailed examination of the eye, especially the lens, to confirm the presence and severity of cataracts.
  • Glare Test: To assess how much glare affects vision, which is a common issue with cataracts.
  • Medical Records: Detailed records from eye doctors documenting the progression and impact of the cataracts.

Partial or Blurry Vision

Having partial or blurry vision can make life hard, especially when it comes to work. If you’re dealing with this, you might be thinking about applying for social security disability. Here’s what you should know:

  • Medical Proof is Key: To get disability for vision problems, you need lots of medical evidence. This includes tests that check your visual fields and any treatments you’ve tried for your blurry or partial vision.
  • Impact on Work: It’s important to show how your vision issues make it tough to do your job. Maybe you can’t see well enough to use a computer, read small print, or do other tasks that need good eyesight.

If blurry vision is a symptom of another condition like diabetes, this might be your main reason for applying. A Social Security disability attorney can help you understand the best way to apply.

Appeals Process for Denied Claims

Sometimes, the first time you apply for disability, you might get denied. Don’t lose hope and think that this decision is the final one. Fortunately, there is an appeals process where you can try again. This includes:

  • Asking Again: You can ask for your case to be looked at again, and you might even have a hearing with a judge.
  • Bringing More Proof: If you bring new information or more evidence about your vision problems, it could help you get approved.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Disability lawyers are helpful for many aspects of your disability claim. These include

  • Gathering Medical Evidence: They’ll find all the medical records and tests that show your vision problems.
  • Filling Out Paperwork: They can help you fill out all the forms correctly.
  • Representing You: If you need to appeal, they’ll speak for you and make your case.

Remember, even if you have partial or blurry vision, you might still qualify for Social Security disability benefits. It’s all about having the right medical evidence and showing how it affects your ability to work. With a good lawyer, you can have a better chance of getting the help you need.

Seek Your Free Consultation with Miller Disability Law, PC

Miller Disability Law, PC in Knoxville, Tennessee can guide you through the disability claim process for vision-related impairments. Our team of attorneys can help in gathering necessary evidence, filling out applications, and representing you in appeals.

Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.

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