Last month was Blindness Awareness Month. When one considers that there are 285 million people with vision impairments and 39 million who are completely blind (10 million in the United States), the importance of marking this month becomes more obvious. Many of these visually impaired people have some vision remaining, but as they age, the ability to see declines markedly.
If you are legally blind, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. What is the Social Security Administration's definition of legally blind? It's a pretty straightforward definition: You are legally blind if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye or if your visual field (peripheral vision) is 20 degrees or less in your better eye.
What if you don't meet this definition? Can you still receive benefits? The answer is, "Yes." If you have other impairments or illnesses that in combination with your vision problems leave you unable to work, you may qualify.
Working When Receiving SSD Because of Blindness
People with blindness or other visual problems that allow them to receive SSD benefits may be able to work and continue to receive SSD benefits as long as they do not earn more than $1,800 a month. If you are over 55 and are working in a lower paying job than you did before because of your blindness, the Social Security Administration will not count the income from the lower paying job toward your average income when calculating your benefits. This is known as a disability freeze. Additionally, if you are self employed, the SSA does not count the time you spent working in the business toward its determination of your benefit. More, you can keep working in the business as long as your income does not exceed an average of $1,800 per month. These three benefits allow you to continue working and still receive your SSD benefits.
SSI Benefits for the Visually Impaired
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are also available to people who live with certain vision problems or who are blind. However, unlike SSD, SSI is a program that is based on need, rather than on your work history. The medical circumstances that make you eligible for SSI benefits are the same as for SSD benefits. However, there are also financial qualifications that are not part of the SSD eligibility process.
To be eligible for SSI, your income and resources must be below a certain amount. However, you do not have to show that you worked under Social Security and contributed to the payroll deduction with every paycheck. Because each state differs in the amount of SSI it provides, it is important to check with the local Social Security office to learn about the income limits in your area.
Contact Binder & Binder for Help
If you are legally blind or partially blind with other impairments, find out about your eligibility for SSD or SSI benefits. Call Binder & Binder, America's most successful Social Security Disability Advocates. Tell them your story, and find out how they can help you get the payments you need and deserve.