How to Understand Social Security Disability in Regards to Blindness and other Visual Problems

The Social Security Disability program can be complex, confusing and, frustrating. This article will help to simplify the program for those with visual problems.

Visual problems are a common allegation seen on Social Security Disability claims. Allegations such as glaucoma and cataracts are seen as is retinitis pigmentosa and many others.You can file a claim by clicking on the link at the bottom of this article.

If eligible, your claim will be forwarded to a Disability Determination Office in the state in which you live. Sometimes there is one office in the state and sometimes multiple. Once the adjudicator gets your claim, they will contact your treating sources for medical records. If they cannot obtain enough current-recent medical records a consultative exam will be scheduled at no cost to you. They can arrange transportation (taxi service, bus tickets, etc.) if you have no way to get to your exam.You must cooperate with the process or you will likely be found not disabled due to failure to cooperate or insufficient evidence.

The most common tests Social Security will want are for visual acuity and visual fields. Social Security will consider you disabled if you are statutorily blind. To be stat. blind your vision must be 20/200 or worse in each eye with best correction. Sometimes a person can only count the fingers of another at a very short distance or even worse have only light perception. Then there are those with total blindness. Anyone who is stat blind or worse will be found disabled.

A visual field is just that----it is the area you see from side to side and from up to down. There are diseases which restrict the visual field. Some people can only see through very narrow tunnels in the middle of their eyes. Some people have what they refer to as pin holes meaning they can see through a tunnel no bigger than the head of a pin or thereabouts. If really severe visual field restriction is present in both eyes you will be found disabled.

Cataracts are unique in that you can be stat. blind with them but not without them. So if you are stat. blind and have cataracts do not expect to automatically be granted benefits. If you were to get cataract removal surgery your vision could improve significantly. If you are blind in one eye but not the other you will not meet or equal what they refer to as "a listing".

Your visual deficit however could still factor into a finding of disability based upon other medical and vocational factors. What this means is that other factors, in addition to your visual deficit, can come into play to push you over to an allowance. For example, you may also have a lower back problem and arthritis in your right knee which severely restricts your ability to function.  These impairments along with your visual deficit can result in your claim being approved.   

Age is a VERY important factor in the claims decision process.  Ages 50, 55 and 60 are especially important and can tilt you more towards an allowance. Other non medical issues such as educational level, work history and, ability to speak English can come into play.

Once enough evidence is received your claim will be forwarded to a medical consultant. The consultant will determine your residual functional capacity in accordance with Social Security guidelines. The claim will then go back to the adjudicator who will perform additional analysis. It is the adjudicator who will ultimately make and input the decision.

To save money, a few corrupt states mostly bypass the medical consultant and have the adjudicator with a Bachelors Degree assume most of the role of medical consultant. Be very scared! This is called Single Decision Maker and is a twisted perversion of the program. In these states the medical consultant use to be a bonafide, legitimate doctor. Now it is primarily a person who never went to medical school, who has never prescribed medication and, who has never treated a patient.

During the claims process you should ask your adjudicator if the state is a single decision maker state. If it is (hopefully they will tell you the truth) you should have little to no confidence in the program and if denied should definitely appeal. The "Single Decision Maker" crime happens mostly in the NW part of the nation i.e. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska...

Due to this scandal some of these states eliminated the phrase "Single Decision Maker" but still maintain the practice. So, if you ask them if they are a Single Decision Maker state they can say no when really they still are.

If you are denied you have x number of days to file an appeal. Your claim will then be reconsidered. The reversal rate is low. If you are denied again and if you appeal you then go to the third level before a judge.

The program is interpreted differently at this level in a way which is VERY favorable to you. The judges take note of all the objective findings of course but focus more on the subjective at this level than at the prior two levels. Examples of subjective variables are pain, fatigue, etc.

The judges often get lost in historical court case precedents and lots of other legal mumbo jumbo. The judges like to pontificate to prove to everybody how smart they are. Aside from possibly annoying or boring you this does you no harm--be quiet and let them pontificate!

The bad news is it takes well over a year to get before the judge...often much more than a year. Sixty to seventy percent of all claims are reversed to an allowance at the third level. Don't try to make sense out of some of these things or you will lose your mind. You do not need an attorney or an attorney representative at the first and second level but definitely do at the third level.

There are many other nuances and complexities to the program but I've given you the basics.

Best wishes!

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Comments 6 comments

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Missing Link 4 years ago from Oregon Author

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Missing Link 5 years ago from Oregon Author

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Teddletonmr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

Great hub, thanks for the insightful information.

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