Do you have to be completely blind to receive SSD benefits?

Under the rules for Social Security Disability benefits, eligibility is not contingent on total blindness. Generally, Social Security defines blindness as someone who has a “central visual acuity of 20/200 or less.” This condition must apply to your stronger eye, not the weaker one. You may also be able to apply for benefits if you can provide information to show that your “visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less.” So what exactly does this mean in layman’s terms?

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, the definitions stated by Social Security fit the description of what is referred to as legally blind. If you have been classified as legally blind, you may be able to see colors, light, and shapes but you are unable to drive, operate machinery or engage in other activities that require good vision.

Social Security does make special rules when it comes to blindness. For example, the agency pays what is referred to as blind work expenses and these include the following:

  • Service animals
  • Braille translation
  • Aids for sensory or vision
  • Work transportation costs
  • Taxes for Social Security, local, state and federal
  • Care attendants

Blind work expenses will not affect your regular benefits other than that it will actually provide you with a higher payment than people who receive impaired related work expenses. Additionally, these expenses do not have to directly connect to your blindness. For example, if you suffer from another ailment that requires physical assistance from a caregiver, Social Security may consider the costs of having that assistance as blind work expenses. While this information is designed to help you gain a better understanding of SSD and blindness, it is not intended to be taken as legal advice.

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