Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that results in damage to the optic nerve, and eventually causes permanent blindness. An estimated 2.2 million Americans currently have glaucoma, and around half of them aren’t aware of it - as up to 40% of vision can be lost before symptoms are present. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the U.S., and the overall leading cause worldwide. African Americans, Latinos, diabetics, and those who are middle-aged or elderly have a greater chance of experiencing glaucoma.
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, getting early treatment can significantly slow down its progression. To help spread the word about glaucoma, and encourage everyone to get regular eye examinations, January has been named “Glaucoma Awareness Month”. In some cases, it’s possible to get approved for Social Security disability benefits if you have glaucoma. To qualify for disability for having glaucoma, you’ll need to meet certain criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA). But first, in order to be eligible for Social Security disability for any reason, you’ll need to be currently not working, with the expectation of being off work for at least a year.
The easiest way to get approved for Social Security due to glaucoma is to qualify under the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” These listings indicate a number of conditions for which the SSA has set forth specific standards that, if met, make the applicant eligible for benefits. If you have glaucoma, you could be entitled to disability benefits under one (or more) of three separate listings. If your visual acuity (clearness and clarity) in your better eye is less than 20/200, you could meet listing 2.02. You could also be approved based on listing 2.04, which requires that your visual efficiency (a combination of visual acuity and loss of peripheral vision) in your better eye is 20% or less, after correction (such as glasses). Listing 2.04 is based on loss of peripheral vision.
However, if your glaucoma doesn’t quite fall under one of these listings, you could still be eligible for Social Security disability. In order to be granted benefits, you’ll need to prove to the SSA that there is no job that you would be able to perform on a full-time basis (proving that you can’t do your previous work isn’t sufficient.)
To do this, it’s essential that you have records documenting consistent medical treatment, and that they not only include information such as your diagnosis and treatments, but also notes regarding how your glaucoma inhibits your ability to perform basic tasks. To qualify under an impairment listing, your file could be required to contain specific test results. While the SSA will also consider your input as to what you can do, medical records are by far the most important piece of the puzzle.
After reviewing the evidence in your file, the SSA will establish what your limitations are – such as if you can’t operate machinery, read, or work with small objects. They will also consider other things, including your age, education level, and work history. Based on all of these factors, they will determine whether or not there is any type of work that you can do. If they find that there is, your application for Social Security disability will be denied.