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Visual Acuity or Efficiency and Disability Benefits

Visual impairment can prevent you from working or make it difficult to maintain gainful employment. Even if you are able to work, visual impairment presents additional challenges. The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands this and allows individuals with severe vision loss or impairment to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, whether they are working or not.

Medically Qualifying with Loss of Visual Acuity or Efficiency

Whether your visual impairment has been present since birth or has only recently developed, it may qualify you for disability benefits, even if you are currently able to work. To receive benefits, you must submit an application and meet the SSA’s evidentiary requirements, including meeting the Blue Book disability listing for Visual Acuity or Visual Efficiency.

  • This Visual Acuity listing appears in Section 2.02 of the Blue Book and requires your vision in your better eye is 20/200.
  • Section 2.04 Visual Efficiency listing either requires:
    • A 20% or lower visual efficiency rating,
    • OR

    • A 1.00 or greater visual impairment measurement.

Meeting either of these listings means you fit the Social Security Act’s definition of “statutory blindness” and are therefore qualified to receive SSD benefits, even if you are still able to work. Keep in mind that all vision test results must be taken after corrective measures. If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure your test results record your vision with and without corrective lenses.

Contraction of the visual field, which appears in Section 2.03 listing in the Blue Book, may also apply to your vision loss or impairment claim. To meet this listing, your medical records must show one of the following:

  • A 20 degree or lower diameter of view from a fixed point measurement
  • A kinetic perimetry measurement of 20% or lower in visual field efficiency
  • A 22-decibel or higher macular degeneration, documented through a static threshold perimetry test that measures vision diameter out from the central 30-degree field.

Regardless of which form of vision impairment you experience, it is important to note that you only meet the statutory blindness definition if you meet one of these Blue Book listings. Closely matching a listing may qualify you for benefits but it will not qualify you for additional “statutory blindness” considerations under the Social Security Act.

Getting Help with Your Claim

Legally or statutorily blind individuals can earn higher wages and still receive disability benefits. They can additionally get benefits sooner, as the SSA considers a statutorily blind individual “presumptively eligible” for SSD. This means you can potentially get benefits as soon as a month after submitting your application, rather than having to wait months for a decision on your claim. A Social Security advocate or disability attorney can help you document your visual impairment to meet the SSA’s evidence requirements. They can also handle any appeals or other inquiries by the SSA throughout the application and review processes.