Receiving Social Security Disability benefits if you are blind

My son has been Disabled since 1999 receiving SSDI and SSI benefits. His condition continues to deteriorate from his multiple medical issues. One major issue is his Bilateral Optic Atrophy which has digressed to his becoming legally blind in both eyes. I heard that in order to received SSDI benefits for blindness, he would of had to have been legally blind when he originally applied. Is this true. Thank you.

A person can receive disability benefits based on blindness if their visual condition is considered "stat blind" or statutorily blind. So, what does that mean? There are two ways of being considered stat blind and, thus, eligible for disability based on blindness.

The first is that you have a severe loss of visual acuity. The loss must be severe enough that, after the best correction has been made by prescription lenses, the vision in the better of the two eyes is no better than 20/200.

Now, some people will immediately think that 20/200 vision is not so bad because their own vision is 20/200 or worse. But--what I just said is that the individual's vision must be at least this bad even with glasses, at best correction. Which, from anyone's point of view, is very very bad.

The second way of meeting the stat blind requirement for receiving disability based on blindness is by proving that there has been a severe contraction of peripheral vision that limits the visual field.

At this point, I will include the language from the SSA disability listings manual, which for most people, unfortunately, will sound like gobbledygook. However, the basic point is that, yes, you can get disability for blindness as long as it meets this criteria. Obviously, this must be based on documented evidence of severe vision loss.

From the SSA listings manual:

"You have statutory blindness only if your visual disorder meets the criteria of 2.02 or 2.03A. You do not have statutory blindness if your visual disorder medically equals the criteria of 2.02 or 2.03A or meets or medically equals the criteria of 2.03B, 2.03C, 2.04A, or 2.04B because your disability is based on criteria other than those in the statutory definition of blindness.

2.02 Loss of Central Visual Acuity. Remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.

2.03 Contraction of the visual field in the better eye, with:

A. The widest diameter subtending an angle around the point of fixation no greater than 20 degrees;"

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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