Are only blind individuals approved for disability the first time they apply?
A statement a forum devoted to a discussion of Social Security Disability questions went something like this:
"I think only blind people are approved for Social Security Disability the first time".
Is this statement correct? Not even slightly. Roughly, thirty percent of claims for Social Security Disability or SSI are approved. This is a national average, of course, and the flip side to this is that seventy percent of claimants are denied disability benefits on initial applications.
Actually, speaking as a former disability examiner, cases involving visual impairments can be fairly difficult to win. For example, in the case of impaired visual acuity, a claimant could have worse than 20/200 vision in one eye, after best correction, BUT if the remaining vision in the other eye, after best correction, is only somewhat better than 20/200, they will not qualify for disability benefits on the basis of the visual acuity listing (listing 2.02).
And, of course, there are other factors that can rear up in a disability case involving vision loss. For example, as an examiner, I once had a case in which a claimant had to have surgical procedures performed on both eyes. The procedures were staggered, meaning that one eye was operated on and then, later, the other eye was operated on.
Due to the timing of these procedures and due, particularly, to the fact that the case had to be diaried, or put on hold, for three months each time, in the end, this caused the claimant's disability application to take about one solid year to process (however, the reasoning as to why this happened is simple: to see what the residual effects of the surgery would be after each operation so the claimant's residual functional capacity could be accurately rated)
Are blind individuals approved for disability the first time they apply? It depends on what you mean by "blind" and it really depends on whether a claimant's medical documentation satisfies SSA disability criteria. But by and large, cases involving vision loss will take just as long as other types of cases.
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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