I'm 23 years old and I've had to go through the Lions Club to get glasses since the second grade. My vision has progressively got worse over the years and the last time I asked my doctor what my eye sight was, his response was 20/800. I've heard I’m considered partially blind. Would I qualify for disability? How would I go about filling out the paper work?
I’m guessing that, when your doctor told you had 20/800 vision, he was talking about your vision without glasses. To Social Security, it really doesn’t matter what your vision is without glasses (or contacts). For disability purposes, what matters is what your vision is while wearing glasses. Here’s why: You could have 20/800 vision without glasses (which is very low vision), but 20/20 vision with glasses. You would not have a disability.
On the other hand, if your eyesight, in both eyes, is 20/800 while wearing glasses (with a proper prescription), you would be automatically considered legally blind and could be eligible for Social Security disability (depending on whether you worked and paid Social Security taxes) or Supplemental Security Income (depending on your income).
Note that the Social Security Administration assesses vision problems by looking at your vision in your better (stronger) eye. If the vision in your better eye is worse than 20/200 with glasses, you are considered disabled. If one eye has 20/800 vision and the other eye has 20/100 vision, for example, you would not automatically qualify for disability benefits.
For more information, see our article on disability benefits for partial or total blindness.
If I lose eye sight in one eye, would that qualify me for disability? I have recently lost vision because of an eye infection, and the doctor thinks it may be permanent.
You would not automatically qualify for disability if you only lose vision in one eye. Social Security's listing for blindness requires you to have worse than 20/200 vision in your better eye. So as long as you have reasonably good vision in one of your eyes, you won’t automatically qualify under the listing for blindness.
Losing eyesight in one eye, however, could prevent you from doing your past job if it was work that required binocular vision or depth perception, such as operating hazardous machinery, working at unprotected heights, or even driving. In that case, you might be able to get disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance for reduced vision, based on what you can and can't do. It’s easier to get a medical-vocational allowance if you are older: If you are older than 50, 55, or 60, in some cases Social Security’s grid rules would require Social Security to find you disabled if the agency agrees you can’t do your past job.