Blindness is one of the most debilitating conditions that a person can experience. Because the loss of vision can be so disruptive, the Social Security Administration has two programs that provide income benefits for its victims: Social Security Disability Income Benefits or Supplemental Security Income.
For the purpose of both programs, blindness is defined as either (a) a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction or (b) a reduction in the field of vision for the better eye so that the widest diameter of the field of vision is 20 degrees or less. Blindness must be verified by an acceptable medical professional, but because vision is susceptible to precise objective measurements, this burden is usually easy to meet. To qualify for SSDI benefits, the vision limiting condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months. SSI benefits do not require any minimum duration. The blindness can be caused by either illness or injury.
The SSA determines disability by a person's ability to engage in substantial gainful activity as measured by monthly earnings. For persons seeking SSDI benefits for blindness, the maximum average earnings limit is $1,820 (the limit for other SSDI claims is $1,320 per month). SSI benefits do not depend upon a monthly limit. Rather, a person's monthly earnings are subtracted from the Federal Benefit Amount in the applicant's location to determine the amount of benefits that are payable.
Disability and SSI claims based upon blindness are almost always processed quickly and, if the medical evidence is sufficient, approved in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, the services of a lawyer who specializes in SSDI and SSI claims may be useful. A consultation with a knowledgeable attorney can identify potential problems with an application and can ensure that an application stands the highest possible chance of being approved.
Source: Social Security Administration, "2016 Red Book - Special Rules for Persons Who Are Blind," accessed on Dec. 19, 2016