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Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Limited or Blurry Vision?

Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Limited or Blurry Vision?

Applying for social security disability based upon impaired vision is generally an uphill battle. You may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits depending on whether you meet the definition of “disability” under the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) rules and regulations.  If you are deemed statutorily blind, you would be considered disabled and entitled to benefits.  However, in order to get benefits based on statutory blindness, you must have 20/200, or less, vision after best correction in the better eye. (Listing 2.02). If you have conditions such as cataracts or retinopathy, there is no automatic approval. Your ability to qualify for Social Security disability benefits will depend on your loss of visual acuity based on visual tests.  It is thus very important that you get tested by your ophthalmologist at the earliest opportunity so that you can demonstrate disability as of the earliest date.

The 5-Step Disability Analysis

There is a five-step process or analysis that the SSA uses to evaluate each claim and determine if you are disabled.  In general, to meet the definition of disability you must be unable to engage in the substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

  1. In the first step, SSA looks at whether or not you are working. If you are working, you must not be engaging in substantial gainful activity. In the year 2020, substantial gainful activity is defined as earning over $1,260 a month.  If you have no earnings or are earning under that amount, then you move on to step two.
  2. In step two of the process, you must show that your impairment or impairments are severe. To be severe, your impairment(s) must have more than a minimal impact on your ability to engage in basic work activity. 
  3. In step three of the process, it is determined whether your condition meets the criteria of a listing. Social Security created a list of conditions referred to as the “listings”.  If you meet the criteria of a listed condition; you will be considered disabled automatically. You will automatically qualify for benefits if you meet the criteria for the listings for statutory blindness, 2.02, 2.03A and B.  In other words, you must have a loss of vision in your visual fields or loss of visual efficiency or impairment after best correction meeting specific levels of impairment.  The Social Security listings, 2.02, 2.03 contain technical criteria which must be met for automatic qualification.  If you meet a listing, then you will be automatically considered disabled at step three. 
  4. What if you are suffering from blurry vision or have gaps in your field of vision, making it difficult for you to function and work, yet you do not meet the listing for statutory blindness? At step 4 in the process, your residual functional capacity is determined. This is an evaluation of your level of disability as measured by your functional ability to engage in basic work activity considering your impairments.   

Unfortunately, if you do not meet the criteria of one of the listings above, it is usually difficult to be found disabled based upon a limited residual functional capacity, which is solely based upon a visual impairment. Social Security will usually find that there are jobs still available to you, even if you do not have a good vision. Only jobs that require handling of small objects or reading small print would theoretically be eliminated from your base of potential jobs.  There would likely be jobs remaining that you could do handling large objects. Of course, if you can show that your visual impairment causes you to be a hazard to yourself or others; potential jobs will be significantly eroded.

Moreover, if you have a visual impairment along with physical limitations, then it will also be easier to show that there are no jobs that you can do. For example, if your physical limitations, such as back or neck problems, limit you to sedentary work; and your visual impairment prevents you from seeing small objects or reading small print, then sedentary jobs may not be available, and you will be found disabled.  Another example would be if you are blind in one eye and are limited to sedentary jobs due to physical impairments; then even with one good eye your productivity and pace would be significantly diminished doing sedentary jobs.  Sedentary jobs generally require that you be able to see small details and work at a productive pace.

Additionally, if you have other adverse factors which would make it difficult to find work, such as closely approaching retirement age, having a limited education or lacking transferable skills, then having a visual impairment in addition to these factors will significantly reduce the amount of potential jobs out there. Keep in mind that SSA will consider your activities. For example, if you are able to drive and take care of your kids and do other everyday activities without difficulty; then you likely would not be found to have a significant enough visual impairment to be entitled to benefits. The first question that must be answered at step 4 in the process is whether you are able to do any of your past relevant work considering your residual functional capacity.  If you are not deemed able to return to your past relevant work, then you move on to step 5 in the process. 

     5. At step 5 in the process, the last and final step, it is determined whether you can return to any other work within your residual functional capacity, considering your age, education and work experience.  This is the point in the process where it is determined if there are any potential jobs out there that you can do. If there are no other jobs that you can do within your residual functional capacity, then you will be considered disabled.  

Contact LaBovick Law Group’s Social Security Disability Attorneys

If you believe your visual impairment prevents you from working, applying for social security disability is likely the right choice for you.  At the LaBovick Law Group, we provide free consultations where we will review the facts of your case to determine if this is the right program for you.  Call us today at (561) 623-3681 for your free evaluation.

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