Visual Impairments and Social Security Disability Benefits: A Basic Understanding
Submitted by Molly Clarke
Living with a visual impairment can make performing everyday tasks more difficult. While technology has made strides to assist the blind and visually impaired, some individuals with vision loss may need to seek help through Social Security and need to know their benefits.
For people who are unable to work, the lack of income and medical insurances can be a source of significant financial strain. Fortunately the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to individuals who cannot work due to vision loss or impairment. The following information will provide you with a basic understanding of the Social Security Disability benefit programs and will help you get started with the application process.
Social Security Disability Benefit Programs
The SSA offers disability benefits from two different programs. The first program — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) — is based on an individual's work history. To qualify, an applicant must have earned a specific amount of what the SSA refers to as "work credits." You can read more about work credits, vision loss, and SSDI at Disability Planner: Special Rules For People Who Are Blind Or Have Low Vision. Work credits are also explained at Qualify for SSDI Benefits.
The second SSD program is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program differs from SSDI because it is not based on work credits. Instead, an individual must meet certain financial requirements in order to qualify. SSI benefits are often a good option for children or other individuals who may not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. You can learn more about the technical requirements for SSI at Supplemental Security Income Home Page - 2016 Edition and Qualify for SSI Benefits.
In some instances, individuals may qualify for both types (SSDI and SSI) of disability benefits.
Qualifying for SSD
Although there are many conditions that cause vision loss, the severity of a person's impairment usually determines whether or not they qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Typically, the SSA evaluates the vision in an applicant's better eye to determine the extent of their disability. Individuals who are legally blind in both eyes often qualify for SSD without trouble.
You can review the specific SSD requirements for vision loss at Understanding Supplemental Security Income If You Are Disabled Or Blind - 2016 Edition and Vision Loss and Social Security Disability.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
To begin the application process, you can make an appointment with your local Social Security office or you can apply online at the Social Security Administration website. Prior to applying, be sure to have medical documents, financial records, and information about work history on hand. The SSA will need this evidence in order to approve your claim for disability benefits.
To improve your chances of approval, it is important to work closely with your doctor. He or she will be able to help you collect all necessary medical records and even provide you with an official letter, detailing exactly how your vision loss affects your ability to work. If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed by the process, it may also be in your best interest to work with a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate. A legal professional will know the ins and outs of the systems and will endure that your application is complete and error-free.
Once you have applied for Social Security Disability benefits, you should receive a determination from within three to six months. If you are denied benefits during the initial application process, do not be discouraged. Most disability claims are approved during the appeal stage of the application process.
Working with Vision Loss
Working is still an option for most people who experience vision loss. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the signing of which is celebrated each July since its signing in 1990, opened many doors of opportunity. Find out about service and training resources that are available to help you with staying employed or going back to work.
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