Social Security Disability and Low Vision

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Question

I was born with very low vision in my right eye due to a problem with the development of my optic nerve. My visual acuity is 20/400 without glasses and 20/200 with glasses. I get double vision and blurred vision from time to time. Can I get disability benefits?

Answer

"Low vision" is a visual impairment that's occasionally seen on Social Security disability and SSI disability applications. Low vision, also called partial sight or limited sight, is an impaired level of visual functioning that cannot be completely corrected by the application of conventional glasses, contacts, or surgery. Low vision can be congenital, resulting from problems with the optic nerve, or can result from glaucoma and macular degeneration, which affects nearly two million Americans who are older than the age of 40. (Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for those over 65.)
How is low vision evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA)? There is no disability listing specifically for low vision, but the SSA does have a listing for vision loss or blindness. It covers loss of central visual acuity, loss of visual efficiency, and loss of peripheral vision. The listing, however, requires poor vision in both eyes. If the vision in both of your eyes was only 20/200 with glasses, you would be considered legally bliond and would qualify for disability benefits. But since the vision in your left eye is better, you won't qualify for disability benefits through the vision loss listing. For information on how Social Security evaluates vision loss, see our article Social Security Disability and Vision Loss.

Updated by: , J.D.

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