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

By   /  November 11, 2012  /  111 Comments

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

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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 2016, it was $1,820.00 as compared to $1,090.00 for non-blind workers. This means that you could have earnings of $1,820.00 per month in 2016 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, $1,090 in 2016, 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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  • Published: 3 years ago on November 11, 2012
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  • Last Modified: February 5, 2016 @ 4:05 pm
  • Filed Under: Claims Process

111 Comments

  1. Joyce says:

    I have been declared Legally Blind recently. However, I am sure that I have been legally blind for many years but have not gone to eye specialists for a while and never had anyone put it in writing.
    My job requires a lot of reading materials and they give us written tests several times a year. I have much difficulty reading…. I use magnifying glasses PLUS a magnifying glass. The struggle has gotten to be too much for me any more. I am 54 and in the process of applying for disability retirement and SSD.
    I am VERY worried I may not get approved. My retina specialist put me out of work and I am using up all my sick and vacation time waiting for the disability to kick in. Should I be worried that I may not qualify>

    Joyce

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Joyce,

      With your being fifty-four years old and legally blind, I would expect you would be approved.
      Get a copy of your recent testing that shows you are legally blind and submit it for your claim.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Daisy says:

        Hello I am legally blind in one eye and my left eye is getting worst I am 52 years old I don’t know how long I can do my job its getting worst how long do I wait before getting my widows fund ?

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Daisy,

          You are old enough to receive disabled widow’s benefits, although they will be reduced because you are not full retirement age. If you have worked enough to be insured for Social Security Disability, you can apply for disability benefits on your own earnings record. You can apply for either benefit when you either stop work or reduce your work to less than $1,090 gross per month.

          You can receive widow’s benefits based on age, not disability, at age sixty. Benefits will be reduced, but not as much as at age fifty-two.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  2. Melissa says:

    I am legally blind in my right eye and have been since I was 6 yrs old. I am now 44 and have recently found out I have the start of Glaucoma in my left eye. I am concerned and wondering if I will be eligible for Social Security Disability? Currently , I am employed 32 hours a week. Not sure for how much longer though as I am having issues seeing as well as I used to. I make less than 14,000 a year before taxes.Thank you.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Melissa,

      If you have to stop work because of your eyesight, you can apply for Social Security Disability based on low vision even if you are not legally blind. Currently, you might contact the Commission for the Blind to find out whether there are devices that you could help you see better in your work.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Helena Ray says:

        Hi K I’m sorry I had to piggyback on this previous email but I did not know how else to email this to you. I live in the state of Georgia. I and legally blind in both eyes due to toxoplasmosis from birth. One of my eyes there is no correction at all the other one I do wear glasses and it is corrected to about 2040 however I do have low vision in that Eye do to floaters from my disease. 20 years ago I was a paramedic but I have stayed home for over 10 years now being a stay-at-home mom. I am wanting to get back to work but everything I am finding visually I am not able to do with computers etc. and the job seems to let me go. I have applied for Social Security disability in the past and have been denied several times due to the fact that my husband makes too much money is there any guidance you can give me

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Helena Ray,

          It sounds as if you do not have sufficient work credits (forty total with twenty credits in the last ten years before your disability began) to be insured for Social Security Disability. Given that and the fact that your family income is above the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) limits, I can’t think of a disability benefit you would be eligible for.

          You might contact the Commission for the Blind and/or your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to see if they can point you in the direction of an occupation that is within your visual limits.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  3. Bren says:

    I am 45 years old and work in a professional field where there is simply no such thing as a part time job and as a matter of fact requires a lot of overtime. Recently I was diagnosed with night blindness and my DR says he is going to put a legal limitation on my driver’s license stating that I can’t drive after dark. That’s fine in summer but in winter it’s dark by 4 pm here and I work 9-5 in a job more than an hour from my home. My current employer has already told me that they can’t keep me on if I can’t give them an 8+ hour day. I live way out in the country and there aren’t any good jobs closer to me that I am qualified for and physically capable of. Nor do I have anyone I can carpool with. I also have poorly controlled high blood pressure and a mild case of cardiomyopathy so I can’t work physically or emotionally stressful jobs. With these combined issues, do you think it is possible I would qualify for at least partial disability? Or are they simply going to tell me I need to move somewhere with public transportation which is simply not an option for me.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Bren,

      I can’t say for sure, but I think your claim would likely be denied for the reasons you listed. Not being able to get to work is not the same as not being able to work. Perhaps you can pay someone to drive you to and from work in the winter, perhaps someone who lives somewhere along the route.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  4. wayne d says:

    i have just became blind in one eye and i have been a comercial truck driver most of my life but i no longer can hold a cdl licenes im 55yrs old can i get ssi disability?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Wayne,

      You may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) because of your work history and age. I recommend applying.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  5. Brandon says:

    Hi my name is Brandon I’m 22, I was diagnosed with stargartdzs disease when I was 17. My vision is 20/200 both eyes and glasses don’t help. I was proscribed a biopric lense mounted on top of my glasses . with those my vision is 20/100 far 20/80 near however the bioptic lense is only aboit a quarter inh box only one eye can look through still making things very difficult to see. Am I eligable for social security ?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Brandon,

      You might still be considered legally blind due to limited field of vision. Even if you are not, you might be considered disabled due to low vision. If you are not now working earning $1,090 gross a month , I suggest that you apply. When you file your application, submit a copy of your last vision test with and with the special lens including any testing or report that quantifies the narrow window of better vision.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  6. vanessa says:

    I signed up on SSID for bipolar, tumor, headaches, and very low vision…my vision is 20/400 in both eyes. I have 3 kids, and I use hearing and sense of touch, and smell to survive and get around to survive. I am now used to bumping in to things, trip, fall ect. that is what sucks about my vision lost over a period of time..I’m 38 the eye doctor said there is no abnormalities, but found swollen in my left eye, and a high chance of having glaucoma. I fear working for fear I may hurt myself and really be unable to take care of my kids, but I want to work a little, although I have some help with my children I want to provide for them better. Would I qualify for benefits, and also what are binoculars to see out of? I am unable to drive anymore I have a car I can’t use it’s just sitting I get my fiancee to drive me, but I heard that certain devices can help with that.

    • vanessa says:

      Also if I do qualify for benefits, could I get a see an eye dog even though I’m not fully blind? Several times I over corrected at my child’s bus stop, crossed the street and I almost got hit by a car…eeek that’s scary.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Vanessa,

      I suggest that you contact the Commission for the Blind and inquire about devices and services that might be help you. I see no reason you could not get a guide dog. You may be eligible for disability benefits based on your low vision.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  7. Ieasha says:

    i currently have hard contacts lenses to help me see i have the same lenses since 2011 when i was 17. im now 22. do you think ssi would help

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Leasha,

      Please see my response to your previous post. I have on additional comment and that is medical insurance plans often do not cover eye care that is only for refraction (testing for correction) or glasses or contacts. You might try the Lions Club or another non-profit or check to see if your area has a low-cost eye-care clinic.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  8. Ieasha titania Avent says:

    hey, i have keratoconus in both eyes. i been diagnose with this since 2010. im currently unemployed and seeking 4 a job. i don’t have medicaid to help to pay 4 my eye appts, i was wondering would i be eligible for ssi

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Leasha,

      You may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if your vision is poor enough that it keeps you from working. I suggest that you investigate health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which offers government subsidies to pay for insurance premiums. Eligibility for and amount of the subsidies depends on your income. The annual open enrollment period is in progress now through January 31. More information is available at http://www.healthcare.gov.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  9. Sylvia says:

    I am 46 y/o with retinitis pigmentosa. I am legally blind (peripheral fields at 15 degrees) and had to quit work as a nurse practitioner b/c I was having difficulty performing my job. I will be applying for SSDI and wonder if I will have difficulty in being granted SSDI due to my age and education (Master’s degree). Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Sylvia,

      Given that you are legally blind and not working, your claim should be approved.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Dragon says:

        How much can you get from partially blindness but so bad that you can’t drive or work at all since the age of 3

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Dragon,

          Without having worked, the disability program that could serve you if you qualify medically is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The maximum federal payment is $733. Some states pay a small supplement above this amount. If someone is providing you with free shelter and/or food, the maximum is $488.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  10. monique says:

    i wear glasses and was wondering if i could apply for ssi. i have two kids and i dont have a job but i do have food stamps

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Monique,

      Wearing glasses does not necessarily mean you are disabled. Many people who wear glasses work. You might try applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TARF) at your state or county social services office to get assistance in supporting your children or perhaps to get childcare services so you can work.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  11. catrina says:

    Hi I’m 41 female. When I was 26 I was diagnosed with ocular toxoplasmosis. I have scars on both eyes over the macula. My vision with glasses in my right eye is 20/100 and left is 20/70. It’s getting worse and I can no longer drive at night due to the black spots in the center of my vision. I’ve been out of work for over a year. Would I quality for disability even though I’m not considered legally blind?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Catrina,

      Depending on your work history and education, you might be approved based on low vision. If there are no occupations that you can perform with your vision limitations, you could be approved. The only way to find out is to file a claim. List all the problems you had on the job due to your vision and if you lost jobs due to your vision, say so.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  12. Jennifer says:

    Hi Kay,
    I am 36 year old female and when I was 15 I was diagnosed with R.P. User syndrome! I am also hearing impaired and wear hearing aides! My question is how do I go about getting disability? I am a single mom of three and work for school district but notice my eyes are changing a lot more! Can I get disablity while working

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      As long as you can earn $1,099 gross wages or more, you are not disabled under Social Security law. If you have to reduce your work hours because of your medical limitation so that you are earning less than $1,099, you can apply while working.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  13. Paula says:

    This is my brothers story. He has been waiting for a disability hearing for over 17 months now. They said he still has 14 months to wait. Shouldn’t his eyesight be a big factor in the decision along with all the other medical things.

    My name is Jack, and I’m a father of two young boys whom I love dearly. I worked as a public high school teacher for 15 years and loved it, but an injury on the job has left me unable to work.

    In May 2007 an extremely brutal fight broke out in my classroom, and when I attempted to intervene , among other injuries, one of the two students picked me up and threw me across the room to the floor. Officers came in shortly after and took the students out of the room, and I thought I was fine, though definitely banged up a bit. I went home and rested that night, but the next morning I took two steps and hit the floor: I was in unbearable pain and unable to walk. The young man had crushed three discs in my spine. A little over two and a half years and 13 procedures later ended with having an “Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion” – a fancy way of saying that I have rods, screws, titanium cages, and cadaver implants in my lower spine. It was so severe that the surgeons had to go in through my abdomen from the front, lay my organs outside my body, and literally hammer and chisel out the damaged material from the inner part of my back. I was on medical leave for almost 8 months.

    My surgeon was phenomenal, and I can walk now, but the damage was so severe that I have permanent nerve damage in my lower back and left leg. I am always in pain, though the level varies. After continuing to work for 7 years after the initial injury, I have reached a point where I can not stand for any length of time, cannot walk long distances, cannot sit for any length of time, and can’t even sleep much – as whenever I move the slightest bit to get comfortable, I feel a nerve pinch and am awakened by the pain. I simply can’t find a position that doesn’t hurt.

    My spinal surgeon says that he’s done all he can do, and I will be in pain for the rest of my life.

    I didn’t sue the school – at the time, I thought it was best for my students not to take more funds from a county that was already faltering (typical teacher, I guess, thinking of the students first). Besides, the county agreed to cover initial medical fees and I got lots of “We’ll take care of you” sentiments, though none in writing. Since I waited over two years, I can no longer make a claim.

    As if that weren’t enough, in 2010 I had the first of 15 eye surgeries for a bizarre series of retinal detachments in both eyes. I am now completely blind in my right eye, though an excellent retinal surgeon has helped me maintain almost 20/40 vision in my left eye.

    I am thankful and grateful to still have as much vision and mobility as I do, but the fact is my level of pain and lack of mobility has left me unable to work. I filed for disability, which I’m told I will eventually receive, but it has been over 17 months and my retirement savings, as small as it was, has been completely used. I am at imminent risk of becoming homeless, I have unpaid medical bills for my vision, have no insurance, and will be unable to support my children in less than a month. I found out last week that my disability hearing is at least 14 months away!

    I may be asking for too little, to be honest: my goal is to be able to pay rent and utilities for at least a few months.

    I resisted coming to Go Fund Me for a long time, because I’m so used to pulling my own weight, but I’m no longer in a position to do so. I have gotten to a point where I’m desperate for help. Any help will be greatly appreciated by both me and my sons.

    Thank you!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Paula and Jack,

      While you are waiting on your hearing date and claim decision, I suggest that you apply to your state for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps, if you have not already. Also, you should be able to get health insurance for your children under Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You can learn about CHIP at http://www.healthcare.gov.

      Your vision will be considered but with your education, there are probably several occupations you could perform with your remaining vision. Therefore, it is not likely that your vision will play a bit part in your claim. Be sure that you submit statements from your physicians that your reported pain levels are credible. Try to submit the original operative reports to show the severity of the initial injury and also any current or relatively current imaging of your back.

      Unfortunately, I cannot post your link to gofundme.com

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  14. Lyana says:

    Hello,
    I am a 30 years old single mother. I have been diagnosed with Coroidal Melanoma in the right eye. I had biopsy done and as a result was given 28% chance to live through 5 years ( well 4 years and 2 month now) , I am hopeful. My vision in right eye is very blurred but good vision in the left eye. I have some difficulty at work because of monocular vision , but still like to work and at the same time I can’t stop worrying and crying that I am wasting my time there and not enough with my son . I can’t stop thinking about him not having a parent.
    I was wondering if there was a way for me to qualify for disability. Any help advice will be appreciated.
    Thank you!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lyana,

      As long as you are earning $1,090 or more gross wages, you will not be considered disabled. If you stop working or reduce your earnings to below $1,090, you can file a claim. I don’t have enough information to predict whether your claim would be approved. If you are able to work in another occupation that is not so dependent on your vision, you will not be disabled as defined by Social Security law.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  15. Dee Ann says:

    hello how are you I have a question I am legally blind my one eye is 20/200 an other eye is 20/300 I was working but had too stop because of my sight an will start using a walker from poor circulation in my leg . I was receiving provisional benefits for the past few months for reinstatement to be decided if I’m still disabled my question iswill I be denied for SSA which I was getting for 8yrs an can I go back to getting SSI i had since age 9yrs old Thank you

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Dee Ann,

      If you are insured and eligible for SSDI, SSDI will be paid. SSI will be paid only if your Social Security and other countable income are below $753 monthly (or slightly higher if you live in a state that pays an SSI state supplement. If that is the case, SSI will be paid in amount that brings your total countable income to $753.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  16. John Benson says:

    I am a 75 year old man retired and receiving Social Security Benefits, and Medicare. Recently I flee in my home and struck my face in such a way the I have lost the vision in my right eye. Am I eligible for additional disability income through eighteen Social Security of Medicare.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear John,

      Your Social Security and Medicare benefits will not increase because of your loss of vision.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  17. Jhoana says:

    Hi, im 26 and yesturday the eye doctor told me I may have cancer on my left eye and possible removal is required. I don’t have much earned income and i want to know if the eye is removed do i qualify for ssi? This diagnosis has had me depressed. Can i apply for depression as well?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jhoana,

      If the removal of your eye and any other associated treatment for cancer are going to disable you for at least twelve months, you can apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It takes two to five months to get a decision. I suggest that you check with your employer to see whether you are covered by a short-term disability (STD) policy. If you have children, also check with your state’s social services department to see if there is financial help available for the children. For SSDI, SSI or STD, claim all the mental and physical conditions that affect your ability to work.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  18. Tracy Nichols says:

    I am 46 years old live in NY, I am legally blind in my left eye due to glaucoma, my right eye is 20/20 do I qualify for any benefits?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tracy,

      You are probably not eligible for disability benefits because there are probably many jobs you could perform with normal vision in only one eye.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  19. david w says:

    Hi, I am legally blind and receive social security disability. Would I be able to start a ministry and still be able to receive SS disability?

    Thanks,

    David w

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear David,

      People who receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) can earn up to $1,800 a month and still receive full Social Security benefits.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  20. Molly says:

    My 19 year old daughter underwent an enucleation (eye removal) of her right eye back in May of this year. Her vision is failing in her left eye as well now. (She did not lose her eye due to an injury. It started w/ a complete retinal detachment and they couldn’t save the eye. The eye was sent to Harvard, John Hopkins, and Stanford , for biopsy, where it was found to be 100% healthy.)

    I applied for SSI for her 2 weeks ago and she was denied because she hasn’t worked enough.

    I plan on filing an appeal. I am curious though. Will she even qualify for SSI because she hasn’t worked enough (at all)?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Molly,

      If your daughter has not worked and earned at least six quarters of coverage (work credits) at a rate of no more than four a year, she does not have enough work to be insured for Social Security Disability. Her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment does not have a work requirement for citizens and many legal aliens; her income and assets have to fall below the prescribed levels.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  21. I’m 48 years old and have worn glasses since I was 14. I had my last eye exam 3 months ago and updated my lense. For the past 8 years or so I have had bad to severe headaches. I also have lots of eye pain with my left eye always watering a lot. My prescription is
    R+1.25 L -9.00. I also have a lot of problems with depth perception and fall a lot. My glasses don’t ever seem to help much. I am currently unemployed. I have trouble seeing computer screens and really pretty much everything. My family suggested I inquire about disability. Would I qualify?

    • I also forgot to mention that two years ago I had a detached retina. I also have tried several times to wear a contact in my right eye, however because of my astigmatism, I have trouble keeping the contact in my eye. Everytime I try to focus my vision to read anything whether it is a book or computer screen, my eyes have a stabbing pain and immediately start watering. This makes my sight more blurrier and makes it impossible to read anything. This is while wearing my glasses. Also after a few hours of wearing my glasses is when I start getting a headache to the point I have to take my glasses off which makes it impossible for me to see anything. If I don’t have my glasses on, then everything I look at is double. I also constantly have floaters in my left eye, which is a big distraction.

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Carol,

        Please see my response of earlier today. Also, I suggest that you talk with your optometrist regarding the problem with your glasses. Maybe some adjustment needs to be made in your prescription.

        Sincerely,
        Kay

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Carol,

      I cannot predict whether you can be approved for disability benefits based on your vision deficits, which would be evaluated based on what you can see with glasses. It will depend on how much and how your ability to function is affected, your education, your work experience, and transferable skills. Really the only way to find out is to apply. Whether or not you file a claim, I suggest that you contact your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and/or a non-profit such as Goodwill or the Commission for the Blind to see whether you can get services to identify occupations you could perform with your visual deficits or that you could train for.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  22. Jessica says:

    I am wondering if my 4 year old son qualifies for disability.. His vision in right eye is 20/125 and his left 20/100 and he has severe pathologic myopia and he has cone dystrophy and we just found out he has holes in his retinas also the dr said he has low vision . We also just had genetic testing done to see if he has what the dr believed to be Cone -Rod dystrophy .. Help please I have signed him up for diability but I was told he wound get it

    • Jessica says:

      Wouldn’t get it . Not would

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jessica,

      Your son will not be approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on legal blindness, but it is possible that he could be approved based on low vision. The criteria for childhood disability is different from adult disability. You can find more information about this in the article “What Medical Conditions Are Required to Meet SSI Disability Qualifications and to Get an SSI Approval?” under the SSI tab on the navigation bar of this website.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  23. Summer says:

    I am a 30 years old mother and have moderate to severe keratoconus, according to a cornea specialist, in both eyes. I wear contact lenses but they are not always tolerable enough wear, so sometimes I can’t to go to work or drive for days or weeks. If I can’t wear either of my lenses there is no way for me to see well enough to go anywhere substantial (i.e. grocery shopping, school pick-ups.) I recently had to just quit my job in home care. I have no idea if I am eligible for disability or where/how to even start

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Summer,

      If your low vision is correctable with glasses when you can’t tolerate the contacts, a claim probably will not be approved. If, on the other hand, your condition requires contacts for correction (glasses don’t work) and there is a record of your intolerance to contacts, it is possible you might be eligible. The best way to find out is to file a claim, though you might also want to discuss your problem with contacts with your eye doctor. (You can read about low vision claims in the article “Can I Get Disability from Social Security If I Have Low Vision, but Am Not Totally Blind?” under the “Claims Process” tab on the navigation bar of this website.)

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  24. Jo Lynn Powell says:

    I recently lost my right eye in a work related accident. I had to have emergency surgery and they could not save it.I am having difficulties with alot of things as to trying to use my good eye.
    Would I qualify for any disability? This happen last month.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jo,

      Whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability depends on whether your visual loss keeps you from working in occupations you have done in the past and if you are a younger worker (typically, younger than in your fifties) from other occupations that you could perform if you did not have visual limitations. (Note that if you have other limitations due to other conditions, such as lifting or standing or sitting limitations that don’t disable you by themselves, you should still list them on your application.) If you feel you cannot work, you might consider requesting vocational rehabilitation services as part of your workers comp claim for training into an occupation that you could perform with your limitations. You can pursue both disability benefits and voc rehab services simultaneously.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  25. Candy Sheets says:

    I am a 37 year old nurse. My vision has always been poor but it’s gotten so bad lately that I’m terrified of making mistakes with medications. I have a very hard time seeing syringes and med sheets. I also have to have alot of light to be able to focus enough to see to do my work. This in itself is causing my anxiety to be 100 times worse. I have a huge floater in my right eye that causes my vision to go in and out. I’m type 2 diabetic, hypothyroidism, and hypertension. I’m beginning to be very concerned that my vision is going to cause me to no longer practice nursing. Would I qualify for ssdi? I’m afraid to even say anything because I don’t want to lose my nursing license or drivers license. But it’s getting harder and harder to hide.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Candy,

      If you have not already done so, get a thorough eye exam that includes examination and tests for eye health. This will result in a diagnosis of your vision problems and/or the best correction you can get with glasses. The information will be needed in case you decide you have to stop work and apply for disability. Whether or not you are approved will depend on your work history and transferable skills to other occupations that may not require the same level of close visual acuity.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  26. billy says:

    Hi Kay
    So DDs doctors don’t think my vision is bad as my other eye doctors stated on my file and its crazy cause I couldn’t see anything on the snellin chart it was so blurry and my antorny wrote closing arugements that I should meet the listing for blindness, so they said I don’t meet the listing for blindness they didn’t deny me thoe they just set me on another exam like what can I do to prove them my vision is really bad plus I have hypertension, chf,afib,obestity, lympema, fatigue,

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Billy,

      At this point all you can do is attend the examination. Also, it is worth noting that you could be approved based on low vision even if you do not meet the statutory blindness guidelines. The reason for approval affects you if you try to work while receiving benefits; but otherwise, the reason for approval has little impact.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  27. jim says:

    I am 51 living in fl. My vision is 20 / 200. I have glaucoma can I get disability

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jim,

      If the vision in your best eye is 20/200 or worse, you will qualify for disability benefits based on statutory blindness.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  28. Victoria says:

    Hi so my situation is I was that I had rhabdomyosarcoma in my left eye as a baby. Never wanted to admit I had some disabilities and my parents didn’t either. I have poor poor vision in my left eye and right eye is very well (dont know measurements) but I’m super sensitive to any type of light..even my phone, computers, in grocery stores or warehouses, etc. (due to radiation). I’m 24 and been working since I was 15. I have a hard time keeping a steady job because of my constant eye build up causing me to be in the restroom several times a day at the work place trying to stop the irritation. It’s a side effect that is not fixable which leads me to constant eye infections from all the touching. I’ve tried so many different kind of jobs, now in an office job. On the computer 8-10 hours a day and still can’t go a day of work without a migraine from trying to focus and not go wash my eye out. Would I qualify for any type of assistance?
    I summarized everything..if u need more info please let me know.(:

    Sincerely,
    Victoria

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Victoria,

      I don’t know whether your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. The only way to find out is to file a claim. I suggest that you talk with your eye doctor about whether he is willing to make a statement about your symptoms and your limitations. If you have lost jobs because of your eye problems, statements from those employers about performance problems and what they observed on the job about your condition could help a claim. Note that if you are earning $1,090 or more gross per month, you have to reduce your earnings to below that level before applying. Otherwise, you will be denied because you will be demonstrating that you can perform substantial gainful activity and, thus, are not disabled.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  29. Billy says:

    Hi kay
    I applied for ssi last year for chf ,afib,edema
    Got denied in October so I filed for reconsideration
    In November the examiner’s seen I had vision problems
    So ask me can I get a full eye exam which I. Did paid out of pocket
    My best correction is 20/400 in my good eye my other I’m blind
    Question is why are they now addressed my vision issues
    And what are my chances getting approval on this reconsideration
    Stage I see alot people say u can’t win. Til alj BT every case different
    My attorney says I meets the listing under 2.02 do u think i would be approve may 8 will make it a full year
    I’m just so worried I’ve never worked I’m 25

    Thanks

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Billy,

      It appears likely that you will approved based on being legally blind.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Billy says:

        Hi kay

        do ssa need to have the cause for my bad vision to be approved they just need my vision fields ,kus at my eye exam they couldn’t find any eye diseases vision just been bad since birth

        Thanks

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Billy,

          If the current eye exams show that you are either legally blind or have low vision to a degree that you meet the disability criteria, the cause of the vision impairment, whether known or unknown, will not matter.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  30. 39yearoldmale says:

    I’m 39 years old. I worked in a lab for over a year in the oil/gas industry. I recently got laid off and I know partially, at least i was laid off because I was making mistakes due to poor vision.

    I cannot see at all out of my left eye, since birth. My “good eye” i have to have glasses to see but i experience pain (headaches) if i keep them on too long. I have 410/20 vision without corrective lenses. Could i qualify for disability?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear 39yearoldmale,

      To be approved on blindness, your corrected vision must be 20/200 or worse in your best eye or have a certain loss of peripheral vision in the best eye. If you don’t meet the criteria for blindness It is possible to be approved based on low vision rather than blindness. To be approved you would have to be unable to perform substantial gainful activity, which is usually defined as $1,090 gross wages monthly, in any occupation you have done in the past or in any new occupation you could perform if you did not have medical (in your case visual) impairments. The only way to find out whether you qualify would be to file a claim. If you do, I suggest that at the same time, you contact your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and/or the Blind Commission to see if you qualify for training or education to get you into an occupation that you could perform.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  31. Robin says:

    Hi thay say i have a rare ms or devic syndrome in my left eye hm and my right eye 20/30 and getting worse i just got a spinal tap done when should i put in for disability benefits im a bartender

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Robin,

      It would be appropriate to apply for disability when you reach the point that you have to quit work because of your medical conditions.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Robin says:

        Im working on that now but thay say i have to be totally blind before I can apply is that true my boss is helping me with everything for disability

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Robin,

          You do not have to be totally blind to be approved for Social Security benefits. If you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity due to low vision, you will be approved. In most circumstances, as long as you are earning $1,090 or more gross per month, your claim based on low vision will be denied because your work will be considered substantial. If you are legally blind (not totally blind), you could be approved while working if your earnings are below $1,820 gross.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          • Robin says:

            Well i just was diagnosed with ms on the 20th of April my spinal tap came out positive for ms so what do i do now and thank you for being there for everybody

          • Kay Derochie says:

            Dear Robin,

            Please see my two previous replies. If you are unable to work earning $1,090 per month, you should file an application.

            Sincerely,
            Kay

  32. Jen says:

    Hi Kay,
    I have a large (18mm) aneurysm resting on my left optic nerve which causes 2400 vision in my left eye. The right eye with correction is 20/30. I had brain surgery a couple months ago called “Coiling” where coils were placed inside the aneurysm to stop it from occluding the artery it’s attached and avoid a stroke.

    Now that I made it through the surgery, I know my conditions will stop me from working as a nurse. I’m concerned that my poor vision will cause inaccuracies when administering medication to my patients as well as while charting nurse notes accurately, etc.. I haven’t worked in five months as I’ve been unable due to multiple diagnoses (below) causing right side weakness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

    I also have hypertension, asthma, Hyperthyroid, a fibrillation and other diagnoses.

    So, my question is if I’d qualify for Disability for poor vision along with the other problems I’m experiencing?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jen,

      If you have been a nurse for most of your work history, your combination of impairments may qualify you for benefits. I suggest that you file an application being thorough in listing all your conditions, treatment history, limitations and restrictions. Also discuss your claim with your physicians so they know you are applying based on a combination of symptoms, not just what may be treated by that one doctor.

      If you are denied, appeal using an attorney. You do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from the retroactive award at the time it sends your back pay to you. So, it’s all very easy and risk-free.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  33. stacey says:

    Hi, I was wondering if I would possibly be approved due to having cogenital glaucoma, keratoconus, and astigmatism. I am currently working, but my vision is becoming worse and I am not able to fulfill my duties in an effective manner due to poor vision in both eyes even with the use of corrective lenses. I was told by my ophthalmologist that my vision would only be corrected by a corneal transplant.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Stacey,

      Whether or not your condition meets Social Security law’s definition of disability depends on your visual limitations and your work history and education. If you stop work or drop your work hours so that you are earning less than $1,090 a month, I suggest that you file an application to get a decision.

      In the meantime, you might contact the Commission for the Blind and/or Vocational Rehabilitation to find out whether there are any adaptive devices that you could be using that would allow you to continue working either in your present occupation or in another.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  34. LoToya says:

    I have a question. I’m wondering if I may qualify for disability? I have an eye disease called Kerataconus which causes my corneas to thin. I have been living with this condition for quite some time and was recently told by a surgeon that because the condition has progressed for so long the only thing I can do at this point is have corneal transplants.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear LoToya,

      You could qualify for disability benefits if you are legally blind or your eyesight otherwise keeps you from working.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  35. necosia says:

    I am LEGALLY blind and was approved for benefits alj on Jan 7 when will my benefits start are how soon

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Necosia,

      It takes one to three months to get benefits started depending on whether you were approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSDI) or both.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  36. Denise says:

    My husband is 56 years old has driven commercial vehicles for more than 25 years. He was diagnosed with glaucoma about 8 years ago and has since had to apply for a federal waiver every two years thru the Vision Program at USDOT to maintain his CDL. They require his doctor to certify that he as sufficient vision to operate a commercial motor vehicle. We feel the doctor has hesitation to make that statement. If the doctor is unwilling to do that would he qualify for disability benefits because he cannot work in the field he’s worked in the past?
    Thank you.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Denise,

      Given your husband’s age and his long work history in one occupation, if he cannot perform that occupation he has a good chance of being approved for Social Security Disability.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Susan says:

        Dear Kay,
        Can you tell me the percentage of blind or low vision folks who receive SSDI? I can only find the statistics for SSO (18.5% received SSO benefits). I found this on the NFB website.
        Thanks,
        Susan

  37. Bridget says:

    Hi! I have congenital glaucoma in both eyes as well as Amblyopia, and my doctor told me I am legally blind by measurement of peripheral vision being less than 20 degrees in the better eye. I have a daughter and so I cannot quit my job. I am a cook and completely incapable of doing the job safely at this point. My employer is looking the other way and allowing me to continue. Just today I filed my reconsideration for SSDI. My first app was denied because I was making over the 1800 a month limit. I am now paying for transportation services and I believe this puts me below SGA for blindness. Do you think I have a chance at winning this time around? How long can I expect to wait for a decision? My doctor wrote a letter recommendation the transportation and saying that this line of work isn’t acceptable anymore- do you think that will help?

    I live in the state of WA.

    Thank you!!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Bridget,

      If you must have transportation services, rather than public transportation, the expenses may be allowed to reduce your gross earnings to below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level of $1,800 for individuals who are legally blind. The fact that the line of work in unacceptable will not be relevant because you are actually working. You might also investigate Blind Commission or Voc Rehab services to see whether you can get into another line of work.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  38. my my says:

    Hey I was born with poor vision and now my vision is 20/100 and can not be fixed even with corrective lenses. I’ve tried numerous time to get a license but was told I don’t qualify to ever get one. So I applied for ssi once and got denied and I was wondering is there any way I could get aproved

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear My My,

      To be approved for disability benefits, your low vision has to keep you from doing any occupation. You can apply again and appeal the denial. You can also contact the local Commission for the Blind and/or your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or a private nonprofit such as Goodwill to get vocational guidance and perhaps training that will allow you to work with your reduced vision.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  39. Stevie D. Campbell says:

    I am Usher Syndrome (Deaf/Blind) My right eye worse 150/200 and left 60/200 but I still have low vision. I should put “Legally Blind” in my SS. Social Security Adm. still me “Deaf” that’s all. My doctor eye told supposed put “Usher Syndrome”. Can I work earn up yo $1,800?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Stevie,

      You should put your diagnosis of Usher Syndrome on your application, as advised by your doctor. I would also recommend that you state that you are legally blind with 150/200 and 60/200 vision. If you are approved as legally blind and you work, your work earnings will be considered substantial if you have $1,800 or more in gross wages or net self-employment earnings. If you are approved based on low vision (not blindness) the substantial earnings level will be $1,070.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  40. Tina Lake says:

    My husband is 49 years old and legally blind. It is from a condition, ocular albinism, that he was born with and does not change over time. He received SSI when he was younger and converted to SSD for a short time in his early twenties after establishing enough work credits. He then began earning too much money to continue to qualify. He has been employed most of his adult life, making a good income for most of it. There have been a few lengthy periods of unemployment because his condition limits his opportunities, but he has never pursued restarting his disability benefits. However, he lost his job in February of 2013 and has had difficulty obtaining a new job in his field (marketing). He did work for a short period of time, January – April, 2014 (earning above SGA for blindness), in a related but different field. However, the amount of reading and computer work required was very difficult for him because of his vision impairment. He has been unemployed since May 2, 2014. We now feel like the combination of his age and the limitations placed on him by his vision issues, make it highly unlikely that he will be able return to working at the level at which he has in the past. Therefore we are looking into his reapplying for disability benefits.

    Since he was approved in the past and his condition has never changed, and he is currently not working, it seems as if he should be approved again. However, we are confused with some things.
    When is his onset of disability date for a new application? February 2013? May 2014? or something different? Also, what waiting periods will and won’t apply to him since he received SSD in the past? He also received Medicare back then, so would he still have a waiting period for that or not? Finally, do you see any issues with him qualifying that we are not seeing?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tina,

      Your husband may or may not be approved for Social Security Disability based on a current application. When he was approved previously, he did not have the same work experience and work skills and knowledge that he has now. At age forty-nine, he must be disabled from all occupations, not just work he has done in the past. Once he turns fifty, he has to be disabled only from work he has done in the past. All that said, given the severity of your husband’s condition, there’s always a possibility of approval and it would be wise to file an application to get a formal decision. He should claim February 2013 as his disability date and list his work in 2014 as an unsuccessful work attempt. Because it has been more than five years since your husband received benefits, if he is approved, he will have a five-month unpaid waiting period. He will also have a twenty-four month waiting period for Medicare.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  41. T.K. says:

    I’m blind in one eye and have glaucoma in the other eye. I also have mental and back problems. I just got a letter stating that I was approve for medical but they are waiting to see about non-medical approval.
    I would like to know if I get disability and later on decide to move to another state where the cost of living is higher would my monthly payment go up any.

    Thank you very much.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear T.K.,

      If you were approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI), your benefit amount will not change from state to state. If you are approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your payment could change if you move to a state that has an SSI state supplement.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  42. Barry says:

    (long question, sorry)
    I have low vision, but test around 20/100 with glasses but glasses distort my sense of space, and i have developed recent visual obstructions (like floaters) but i’d still test the same acuity and field.
    1: can this count as blind?

    I applied in 2009 and was denied because my work was deemed a type that could be substantially gainful (receptionist) yet I did not then and never in my 16 years working have earned near the income threshold (blind or otherwise).
    I was recently laid off and replaced and feel I face clear, but unprovable hiring discrimination when people know i don’t see well. the question is,
    A: when should i say my disability began (mine is a congenital birth to death eye condition, but I worked (earning about $800/mo gross) until a couple weeks ago?
    B: and can i site hiring discrimination (not just inability to perform a job) as part of the barrier to employment (it is obvious that i don’t see normally but I also have a disfigurement) and cite not having access to a driver’s license (often a job requirement–but most companies will not put that in writing)

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Barry,

      As you describe your vision, you do not qualify for Social Security Disability based on blindness. Theoretically, you might qualify based on low vision, but you have already been denied once. (Full-time receptionist work at minimum wage would result in substantial earnings.) If you apply again, I recommend having an attorney present you case. An alternative would be to contact the Department of Vocation Rehabilitation of your state and/or non-profit organizations such as Goodwill to help place you in work that is within your abilities, where you would not face discrimination.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

      • marlio salas says:

        Ok hi im 16 and im totally blind in my left eye and have a very poor vision in my right eye and my doctor told me that if i dont keep my glasses on at all times its a possibility that i could go fully blind so my question is would i be considered disabled with my eyes being this bad i mean ive never had a job before because my mom fears that something might happen and at this young at i have varquise vains in my right leg and it spreads bad and sorry if i spelled that wrong but am i disabled

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Marlio,

          If your family has limited income and assets, you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. I suggest that you discuss this with your parents and have them read the articles under the SSI tab on this website http://www.disabilityadvisor.com to see whether you might qualify financially. If you are not sure, apply to get a formal determination.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          • Angel says:

            Hi Kay I went to the eye doctor recently in was told that my eye sight is 20/200 in both eyes, would i be eligible for ssi disability

          • Kay Derochie says:

            Dear Angel,

            You are legally blind so you medically qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI). Whether or not you are legible for SSI depends on whether your income and resources (assets) are below the SSI limits. To be eligible for SSDI, you need sufficient work credits from earnings that were taxed for Social Security. The amount needed depends on your age. I suggest that you file claims, if you are not able to work and earn $1,090 or more gross per month, to get a formal decision.

            Sincerely,
            Kay

  43. 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.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

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