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Social Security disability benefits for blindness

For many people in Ohio, blindness or severely impaired vision constitutes a severe impairment of a their ability to work. For this reason, the Social Security Administration has developed special rules for providing disability benefits for persons who are blind.

The Social Security Administration defines “blindness” as having uncorrectable vision of 20/200 or less in the better eye or a visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye. The condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least twelve months. Impaired vision, even if it is not severe enough to qualify for disability benefits by itself, may constitute a qualifying disability if it, alone or in combination with another medical condition, prevents a person from working. A person seeking disability benefits for blindness must, like of other disability applicants, accumulate enough work credits to become eligible.

A person receiving disability benefits for blindness may continue to work, so long as the income earned from such work does not exceed the threshold for “substantial gainful activity.” For most persons receiving disability benefits, the threshold of substantial gainful activity for 2016 is an average of $1,130 per month for the calendar year. For persons who are blind, substantial gainful activity is defined as earnings that average $1,820 per month for 2016.

Anyone who has vision problems that interfere with his or her ability to work may wish to obtain a vision test from a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist. These tests are not invasive or painful. A follow-up consultation with a lawyer who specializes in handling disability claims can provide a helpful assessment of the condition and its effect on a person’s inability to work. An experienced disability lawyer can also render advice about appellate rights if the claim were to be denied.

Source: Social Security Administration Redbook, “Special Rules For Persons Who Are Blind,” accessed on May 23, 2016

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