Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits with Vision Loss in Pennsylvania?

Humans receive much of their information about the world through their eyes.  When the eyes are injured or compromised by illness, and the result is a damaged sense of sight, it can be a challenge to maintain steady employment.  If you are unable to work as a result of partial or complete vision loss, you may be eligible for monthly disability benefits in the form of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). So how does the Social Security Administration evaluate vision claims, and how do you qualify?

Normally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses its “Blue Book” guidelines, formally known as the Listing of Impairments, to evaluate disability claims.  However, blindness comes with unique rules and conditions. Our Philadelphia disability lawyers and our disability lawyers in New Jersey will be happy to help.

SSA Regulations for Blind Disability Claimants

To quote the SSA, “There are special rules for people who are blind or have low vision.” But before we can address these “special rules,” it’s important to understand how the SSA defines blindness:

“We consider you to be legally blind under Social Security rules if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye, or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens. Many people who meet the legal definition of blindness still have some sight, and may be able to read large print and get around without a cane or a guide dog.”

If this describes you, what sort of special rules might then apply?

  • SGA evaluation under SSI.  SGA stands for Substantial Gainful Activity (i.e. work which earns income), and SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income (i.e. need-based monthly benefits). Normally, your SGA evaluation factors into a denial or approval, but SGA does not factor in if you meet the definition of blindness.
  • No duration requirement under SSI.  Normally, the SSA imposes a time duration requirement on disability applicants: a minimum of 12 months (either already elapsed, or expected to pass). There is no duration requirement for blind SSI applicants.
  • Higher income limits.  If you are a blind SSDI applicant, the standard income threshold of $1,070 is raised to $1,800 per month.

In terms of the physical application itself, the SSA makes special accessibility accommodations, including Braille and audio CDs.

Qualifying for Disability with Partial Vision Loss

Of course, not all vision disorders or eye injuries are tantamount to being legally blind.  Section 2.00 of the Listing of Impairments, Special Senses and Speech, covers a variety of ocular conditions, including:

  • Loss of Visual Acuity (Section 2.02)
  • Contraction in the Visual Fields of the Better Eye (2.03)
  • Loss of Visual Efficiency (2.04)
  • Disturbance of Labyrinthine-Vestibular Function (2.05)

Notice the difference between loss of visual acuity, and loss of visual efficiency.

There is loss of acuity when the “remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.”

By comparison, loss of efficiency is defined as either:

  • “A visual efficiency percentage of 20 or less after best correction.”
  • “A visual impairment value of 1.00 or greater after best correction.”

The recurring phrase “after best correction” is also important to note.  If naturally poor vision can be brought to normal levels with glasses or contact lenses, you will not be considered disabled by the SSA.

In terms of evaluating a claimant’s vision, SSA medical examiners may conduct tests and seek documentation including:

  • 20-Foot Vision Measurements
  • Cycloplegic Refraction (i.e. using eye drops to test the pupil)
  • Eye Exams
  • Eye Exam Reports
  • Snellen Methodology (i.e. the standard chart used by eye doctors)
  • VER (Visual Evoked Response) Testing (i.e. eye stimulation with a test pattern)

You can read the full official guidelines for evaluating ocular problems here.  You can read more about the options available to you here.

Pennsylvania Disability Attorneys Offering Free Consultations

SSI and SSDI are tremendous resources, but qualifying is often difficult.  Navigating the application or appeals process can be challenging, and statistically, more applicants are rejected than approved.  An experienced Philadelphia disability lawyer can help you succeed. To schedule your completely free and confidential case evaluation, call the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 with our disability lawyers in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 with our Philadelphia disability lawyers, or contact us online today.

Related Articles

How Bankruptcy Can Protect You

Filing for bankruptcy is often thought of as a sign of failure. At best, it is seen as a last resort when faced with too many bills, collection letters, or […]

Read More »

Means Testing in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy has many layers. Before filing, a potential debtor will have to gather their bills, bank statements, tax returns, and proof of all household income for the previous six months. […]

Read More »

How Many Types of Social Security Benefits Are Available?

While it is necessary to be disabled to receive disability benefits, the non-medical requirements are different for each category. You may be entitled to one or more types of benefits. […]

Read More »

Have an Attorney Review Your Case for Free

Get a Free Case Evaluation

Contact Our Attorneys To Learn How We Can Help Your Case


12 Convenient Locations Across Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Philadelphia, PA

7909 Bustletown Ave, 1st Floor Philadelphia, PA 19152 (215) 607-7478 Get Directions

Quakertown, PA

328 Broad St. Quakertown, PA 18951 (215) 515-6876 Get Directions

Allentown, PA

137 N 5th St. Suite A Allentown, PA 18102 (215) 240-4082 Get Directions

Jenkintown, PA

135 Old York Road Jenkintown, PA 19046 (215) 544-3347 Get Directions

Easton, PA

101 Larry Holmes Dr. #212 Easton, PA 18042 (215) 515-7077 Get Directions

Bala Cynwyd, PA

2 Bala Plaza, Suite 300 Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 (610) 557-3209 Get Directions

Bensalem, PA

3554 Hulmeville Rd, #102 Bensalem, PA 19020 (215) 515-6389 Get Directions

Plymouth Meeting, PA

600 W. Germantown Pike #400 Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 (215) 515-6876 Get Directions

Harrisburg, PA

2225 Sycamore St Harrisburg, PA 17111 (717) 864-8887 Get Directions

Cinnaminson, NJ

909 Route 130 South #202 Cinnaminson, NJ 08077 (609) 796-4344 Get Directions

Hamilton Twp., NJ

100 Horizon Center Blvd., 1st and 2nd Floors Hamilton Township, NJ 08691 (609) 236-8649 Get Directions

Marlton, NJ

10000 Lincoln Drive E One Greentree Centre, Suite 201 Marlton, NJ 08053 (856) 213-2805 Get Directions

Piscataway, NJ

200 Centennial Ave. Suite 200 Piscataway, NJ 08854 (908) 367-7256 Get Directions