Social Security Disability for Vision Disorders
- The Social Security Disability Listings: Vision Disorder Diagnostic Categories
- Types of Vision Disorders
- Medical Evidence
- Securing Your Financial Future
An individual with a vision disorder may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if the following conditions are met:
- the claimant’s capacity to work is seriously limited due to their vision disorder;
- medical evidence supports that a qualified vision disorder has been diagnosed; and
- the condition and its disabling effects are expected to continue for a consecutive period of at least 12 months.
The SSA utilizes listings to define disability. These listings help categorize a specific vision disorder to emphasize how a person’s health, quality of life, and livelihood may be affected.
Vision problems and disorders are identified as irregularities of the eye, optic nerve, the optic tracts, or the brain that may lead to loss of visual acuity or visual fields. Loss of visual acuity can affect a person’s ability to distinguish detail, engage in fine work, or read. Loss of visual fields, on the other hand, may limit a person’s ability to distinguish visual stimuli in the peripheral extent of vision.
Vision disorders outlined by the SSA are as follows:
- Statutory blindness is defined in sections 216(i)(1) and 1614(a)(2) of the Social Security Act (the Act). The Act categorizes blindness as visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens. It also states that an eye that has a visual field restriction in which the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees is categorized as having visual acuity of 20/200 or less. An individual has statutory blindness only if his or her visual disorder meets the criteria of 2.02 or 2.03A. If a visual disorder medically equals the criteria of 2.02 or 2.03A, or if it meets or medically equals 2.03B, 2.03C or 2.04, the SSA will typically find that a person disabled if their visual disorder also meets the duration requirement.
- Blepharospasm is defined as a disorder caused by repetitive, bilateral, involuntary closing of the eyelids. A person with this disorder commonly has measurable visual acuities and visual fields that do not satisfy the standards of 2.02 or 2.03. Blepharospasm is normally responsive to treatment, however, the SSA will consider how involuntary closure of an individual’s eyelids influences their ability to maintain visual functioning over time should therapy not work.
- Scotoma is defined as a non-seeing area in the visual field surrounded by a seeing area. The SSA measures the visual field and subtracts the length of any scotoma from the total length of any diameter on which it lands (excluding a typical blindspot).
- A cortical visual disorder is defined as an interruption in the posterior visual pathways or occipital lobes of the brain. As a result, the visual system does not process what the eyes are seeing. Cortical visual disorders can be caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI), cardiac arrest, stroke, a tumor, surgery, near drowning, or a central nervous system infection such as meningitis or encephalitis.
To prove a vision disorder exists and significantly limits a person’s life and ability to work, specific medical evidence is required by the SSA.
To assess visual disorders, including those that lead to statutory blindness, the SSA typically requires that a person provide evidence of an eye examination in which measurements of the best-corrected visual acuity or the extent of the visual fields is noted. If such impairments exist, the cause of the loss of visual acuity or visual fields is required to be documented. In most cases, a normal eye examination will distinguish the root of any visual acuity loss or visual field deficits. However, if the exam fails to do so, the SSA may ask for the exact information utilized to determine the existence of the visual disorder.
Because a diagnosis of a cortical visual disorder must be supplemented by documentation of the cause of the brain lesion, sometimes a person may have a cortical visual disorder but not display any abnormalities in a standard eye exam. In these cases, the SSA may ask for a copy of a neuroimaging or visual evoked response (VER) test report, or other medical evidence that addresses those findings.
These descriptions of the forms of medical evidence for vision disorders are only the beginning of what is required to prove disability. There are more specifics outlined by the SSA depending on the type of vision disorder from which a person suffers and for which benefits they are seeking. It is crucial to have expert medical opinions to support diagnoses of vision disorders.
Skilled Providence RI disability attorneys have experience working with medical providers to appropriately and thoroughly document a claimant’s degree of disability. This can make all of the difference between winning and losing your disability case.
Applying for SSD benefits requires a lot of time, energy, and patience. Even if a claimant follows all the necessary steps, it’s possible he or she may have overlooked a certain requirement. At Marasco & Nesselbush, Rhode Island’s trusted Social Security Disability law firm, our attorneys are committed to obtaining extraordinary results for our clients. Our firm’s experience with SSD claims is unsurpassed. To find out more about how we can help you obtain the benefits you deserve, please fill out the free case evaluation form on this page, or call us at one of our local offices.