Retinitis Pigmentosa and Social Security Disability

Retinitis pigmentosa is a disease which causes degeneration in your eyes, specifically in the rods and cones of the retina. It is generally inherited and can cause severe impairment to your vision. In the worst cases, it can cause blindness. In most cases, those with retinitis pigmentosa will lose peripheral vision first, with the loss of central vision and acuity sometimes following. In rare cases, central vision loss will precede peripheral vision loss. The condition often affects night vision before affecting daytime vision.

In addition to loss of vision and acuity, these symptoms are typical for those with retinitis pigmentosa:

  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty separating colors
  • Tunnel vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Glare aversion
  • Difficulty adjusting to differing light levels
  • Lattice effect
  • Retinitis pigmentosa can set in at any period in life, from infancy to old age. In most cases, the degeneration is more rapid when the disease’s onset occurs later in life.

    How to Apply for Social Security Disability with Retinitis Pigmentosa

    The Social Security Administration uses a document known as the Blue Book to determine whether applicants meet the qualifications for disability benefits based on a wide range of conditions. Retinitis pigmentosa does not have its own listing in the Blue Book, but there are three listings in Section 2: Special Senses and Speech which may apply to retinitis pigmentosa claims, depending on the type of vision loss the condition has caused. These listings are:

    • 2.02 Loss of visual acuity
    • 2.03 Contraction of the visual fields of the better eye
    • 2.04 Loss of visual efficiency

    Because those who have retinitis pigmentosa may suffer either or both peripheral and central vision/acuity, any or all of these listings may apply to your retinitis pigmentosa disability claim. Generally speaking, you will meet the listing requirements if:

    • Your visual acuity is 20/200 or less when wearing corrective lenses
    • You have 20% visual efficiency or less when wearing corrective lenses
    • You have less than a 20 degree field of vision

    To qualify under any of these listings, you must have medical proof of the severity of your retinitis pigmentosa. This will generally involve testing by your doctor or optometrist. The SSA may also require you to undergo vision testing with their appointed physicians.

    If your retinitis pigmentosa fails to meet the outlined criteria for complete disability, it does not necessarily mean that you can’t qualify for benefits. Rather, it means that the SSA will need to determine whether your condition makes it unreasonable for you to be expected to continue working.

    You will want to make note of any other medical or mental conditions which you suffer from when you make your retinitis pigmentosa disability claim. This is true whether the conditions are related or not. Many people qualify for disability based on the total effects of all of their disabling conditions even if they would not qualify solely on the basis of their primary disabling condition.

    Your Retinitis Pigmentosa Social Security Disability Case

    Whether you have just started to consider filing for disability benefits or have already had your claim denied, you should consider contacting a Social Security disability attorney. Most Social Security lawyers will offer a free evaluation of your claim. Often, retinitis pigmentosa claims are denied simply because of the wording on medical documentation. A Social Security lawyer can work with your health care professionals to ensure that your claim is put together in the manner most likely to be approved by the SSA.

    If your claim has already been denied, a Social Security lawyer can help you with the appeals process. It is especially important to have legal representation during your hearing, as this is the phase of the Social Security disability claims process when most claims are approved.

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