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Macular Degeneration and Social Security Disability

Macular degeneration is a condition which affects the central part of the retina, the macula. The macula is the part of the eye which allows us to see things in detail. When macular degeneration becomes severe enough, it impairs:

  • Your ability to read
  • Your ability to recognize a face
  • Your ability to make out details, particularly in front of you

Most people with macular degeneration have sufficient peripheral vision to continue with many of their daily activities, as long as the activities don’t call for noticing fine details or reading. The condition most commonly affects adults over the age of 50.

Applying for Social Security Disability with Macular Degeneration

If your ability to work has been severely impaired by macular degeneration, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. While the diagnosis alone will not automatically qualify you for disability, the SSA does consider the effects of macular degeneration on your vision and acuity. Generally speaking, to qualify for disability benefits, you will need to show medical evidence that your macular degeneration is severe enough that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue working in any field for which you are qualified.

Macular Degeneration and the Blue Book

The SSA does not list macular degeneration in its Blue Book (a book giving guidelines on how various conditions are to be judged for the purposes of determining disability. The Blue Book does, however, contain guidelines regarding loss of vision and acuity which apply to macular degeneration disability claims. The pertinent sections are:

  • 2.02 Loss of Visual Acuity
  • 2.04 Loss of Visual Efficiency

In determining visual acuity and efficiency, the SSA will want to see a test of better eye with corrective lenses. You will qualify for Social Security disability benefits under the Blue Book listings if either:

  • Your visual acuity in your better eye is 20/200 or worse while you are wearing the best corrective lens available
  • Your visual efficiency in your better eye (while wearing the appropriate corrective lenses) is 20% or less

Qualifying for SSD with Macular Degeneration based on your Inability to Work

If your macular degeneration doesn’t qualify you for Social Security disability based on the Blue Book listings, you may still qualify based on its effect on your ability to perform typical work activities. You will need to show that your condition makes it impossible for you to continue doing any type of work for which you could reasonably be trained. The best approach, in most cases, is to show that working presents a safety hazard to you and to others on the job site doe to your loss of detailed vision.

When applying for Social Security disability benefits, it’s important to list all medically verifiable conditions which you may have, whether they are related to your macular degeneration or not. Often, the sum of your disabling conditions will be enough to qualify you for disability benefits even if the macular degeneration does not qualify you in and of itself. Common conditions which are often suffered by those with macular degeneration, and which should be noted in your disability claim, include:

  • Hypertension
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Hallucinations

Your Macular Degeneration Social Security Disability Case

Many macular degeneration disability claims are denied. To improve the chances that your claim will be approved, consult with a Social Security disability lawyer. Studies have shown that those who utilize the services of an attorney have nearly double the chance of being approved compared with claimants who represent themselves. This holds true at all stages of the disability claims and appeals process.

Most Social Security disability lawyers offer a free initial consultation. Additionally, Social Security lawyers are not allowed, by law, to collect legal fees from you unless your disability claim is approved. In most cases, your disability lawyer will be paid directly by the Social Security Administration from a percentage of the back pay to which you are entitled when your claim is approved.

Free Evaluation of Your Macular Degeneration Claim