Disability Benefits for Vision Loss or Blindness

A woman feeling the pain of experiencing vision loss.

These Options from Social Security Help Workers with Blindness or Low Vision

If vision loss or blindness has forced you to quit working or to take lower-paying work, we understand you’re under a lot of stress.

You’re worried about keeping a roof over your head and food on your table, not to mention paying for medical care and all the other expenses that come up in life.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 4.2 million Americans age 40 and older are either legally blind or have low vision in the better-seeing eye.

You knew a monthly Social Security Disability payment, which comes with Medicare health coverage, could help you regain the stability you need to live a full life—so you submitted your application and waited.

Then you received a denial notice from Social Security.

This happens to more than two-thirds of first-time applications. You could be denied due to mistakes made on forms, insufficient supporting documentation, or a host of other reasons.

If you applied for disability benefits due to vision loss and were turned down—and you’re in Wisconsin—the Madison disability lawyers at Becker Law Office can help you with your appeal.

Social Security treats blindness differently from other impairments that qualify for disability benefits. Becker Law Office has helped thousands of people get disability benefits, and we know what to do.

In fact, disability law is all we do.

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Types of Disability Benefits for Blindness or Vision Loss

Two disability benefits programs available to people with low vision—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—have many of the same requirements but a few key differences.

SSDI is a government-run insurance program. It will pay benefits if all of the following are true:

  • Medical criteria:You can’t work because you are legally blind (your vision can’t be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye), or suffer from low vision (your vision is 20/70 or worse in your better eye and it cannot be corrected or improved with regular eyeglasses), or if low vision combined with other health problems prevents you from working.
  • Duration of disability:Your vision impairment is expected to last 12 months or longer.
  • Evidence:You can provide medical and employment documentation to support your claim that you should get disability benefits.
  • Coverage eligibility:You’ve worked long enough, and enough Social Security taxes have been deducted from your paychecks for you to qualify for benefits.

SSI is a needs-based program. It has the same health-related requirements as the SSDI program, with some differences, especially for blindness:

  • There is no requirement for the duration of blindness (different from the 12-month rule for other conditions).
  • Your income and resources must be under certain dollar limits set by the government.
  • You don’t need to have a work history (nothing paid into the program or a required number of years worked).

If Social Security denies your claim for SSDI or SSI, don’t give up. You have the right to appeal their decision.

If you’re in Madison, Wausau or anywhere in Wisconsin, it costs you nothing to have an initial conversation with our disability lawyers.

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Special Disability Benefit Rules for Workers Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Social Security has some different rules for SSDI and SSI for blindness or low vision than it does for some other physical or mental health conditions.

  • Higher Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit:In 2022, you can earn up to $2,260 a month before your earnings disqualify you from benefits, as opposed to only $1,360 a month for disability applicants who are not blind.
  • Disability freeze:When Social Security calculates your retirement or disability benefits in the future, they can exclude any years you made less money because of your blindness. Social Security benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings, so cutting periods of lower pay from the calculation will make your future benefits higher.
  • “Free” time for the self-employed: If you’re blind and self-employed, Social Security won’t evaluate the time you spend working in your business as they do for people who aren’t blind. This means you can be doing a lot of work for your business but still, receive disability benefits—as long as your net profit averages $2,260 or less per month (as of 2022).
  • Protections beginning at age 55: If you’re over 55 and your earnings exceed $2,260 a month in 2022, your benefits will be suspended—but not terminated. Social Security will pay you disability benefits for any month that your earnings dip below this limit. (That monthly flexibility isn’t an option for other disability benefit recipients.)

If Social Security denies your application for SSDI or SSI, you only have a 60-day window to appeal their decision.

At the Becker Law Office, appeals are all we do. Our experienced Wisconsin Social Security legal team can guide you through next steps and help you put together a solid case at any stage of the appeals process.

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Get your free consultation from one of our Social Security Disability attorneys.


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