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Can I get disability from Social Security if I have low vision, but am not totally blind?

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Learn how blindness, statutory blindness, or low vision can qualify you to get disability from Social Security and about work incentives for the blind.


Watch the Video: “Can I get disability from Social Security if I have low vision, but am not totally blind?”

Social Security Disability for the Blind

You can get disability from Social Security for complete blindness and statutory blindness if you meet the Social Security’s definition of Disability.

Statutory blindness is defined as either having visual acuity for distance of 20/200 or worse in your best eye with the use of corrective lenses or having a restricted field of vision in your best eye “such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.”

Social Security’s definition of disability includes “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity.” If you are blind or statutorily blind, as defined by Social Security law, then when Social Security evaluates your new claim or your continuing eligibility for benefits, they will use the benchmark for blind individuals to determine whether you are performing or can perform substantial work. The earnings level for substantial work by a blind worker is higher than for a non-blind worker. For example, in 2014, it was $1,800.00 as compared to $1,070.00 for non-blind workers. This means that you could have earnings of $1,800.00 per month in 2014 and still potentially be considered disabled. Additionally, if you blind and self-employed, Social Security looks only at your earnings and not at the services you perform for the business, as it does for non-blind workers.

Social Security Disability Based on Low Vision

It is worth while to note, that if you have low vision, but are not statutorily blind, you may still be disabled under Social Security’s definition of disability, which considers your past work experience and, if you are under age fifty, your education, training and experience. You might qualify because your eyesight is too poor to do work you have done in the past or, if you are under age fifty, any other work for which you have transferable skills. Another possibility is that you might get disability benefits because you have limitations from multiple conditions—your low vision and other medical or psychological conditions. If you are working while applying for disability, Social Security will use the substantial work benchmark for non-blind workers, $1,040 in 2013, in applying its definition of disability to your claim.

For more information about how Social Security evaluates your claim and about working while claiming disability from Social Security, see our articles “How does the Social Security Administration apply Social Security Laws to determine if I am disabled?” and “Can I Keep Getting Benefits When I Am Working on Social Security Disability?”

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  1. David Massey says:

    Being blind and receiving 1800.00 per month in 2014. Can I average 1800.00 per month for the 12 month period of 2014 or is it a flat 1800.00 per month no matter how many weeks are in a month?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear David,

      Social Security might average your earnings to determine whether you, as a blind individual, is engaging in substantial gainful activity; however, keep in mind that if your earnings are over $1,800 in some months, it would have to be under $1,800 in other months to result in an average under $1,800.



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