What Social Security Disability Benefits are Available to the Blind?

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Just because you are legally blind doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t see anything at all — but it does mean that you can’t see well enough to perform important life activities such as driving, reading — or earning a living. Legal blindness can also hit your pocketbook in the form of direct expenses. Fortunately, however, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to legally blind individuals, subject to a complex set of rules.

Three Alternative Ways of Qualifying as “Legally Blind”

If you “fail” any of the following three tests, you will be considered legally blind:

  • Clarity of vision;
  • The ability to quickly scan and focus; or
  • Loss of peripheral vision.

Remember, you only have to fail one of the above tests to qualify. The standards, however, are based on strict numerical standards.

Beware the Qualifiers

The foregoing standards are based on two qualifiers, “in your best eye” and “after best correction”:

“In your best eye”

You must fail one of the three tests listed above for both eyes, not just one. If one of your eyes sees well enough to pass all three tests, you will not qualify as legally blind.

“After best correction”

“After best correction”” typically means after you put on a pair of glasses. You could be virtually blind without glasses, but you will not be considered legally blind unless you fail all three tests with both eyes, while wearing a pair of glasses or some other corrective mechanism.

SSDI vs. SSI Benefits

The qualification standards and benefits for legally blind individuals vary depending on which program you are using — SSDI or SSI:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): To qualify for SSDI, your legally blind status must have already persisted for at least a year, or be expected to persist that long.
    Additionally, you must have accumulated sufficient work credits. The rules are complex, but you probably qualify under this standard if you have worked at least ten years in your lifetime and five of these occurred during the last 10 years. As of 2019, the average monthly benefit is $1,234 per month, while the maximum is $2,861. The average for a recipient with a spouse and at least one child is now $2,130.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is based on financial need, not work history. As a general statement, however, if the combined monthly income of you and your spouse does exceed $1,157 (in 2019), you could face obstacles to qualifying for full benefits, although partial benefits may be available up to a certain point. You may also face obstacles if your assets (such as the equity in your home) exceed certain limits.

The average SSI benefit is $771 per month for individuals and $1,157 for couples.

“Legally Blind” vs. “Low Vision”

Certain benefits are available to people with impaired vision that does not rise to the level of legal blindness.

Working While Receiving Benefits

If you apply under the SSDI program, you are permitted to earn up to $2,040 monthly (as of 2019) without disqualifying yourself for blind disability benefits.

The Sooner You Act, the Better Your Chances Will Be

Disability claims are subject to certain time limitations. Even if you meet them, however, an unnecessary delay may raise doubts about the validity of your claim. Contact Kentucky workers’ compensation and disability lawyer Glenn Martin Hammond at (606) 437-7777, or fill out our online contact form, to schedule a free consultation. Your legal bill will be zero unless we win your claim.

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