Disability program differences for Individuals Who are Blind
by Terri Uttermohlen & Lucy Miller
Social Security’s Definition of Blindness
In both the title II and the SSI disability benefit programs, Social Security makes a distinction between individuals who are “disabled” and individuals who are “blind”. To receive Social Security disability benefits due to blindness, individuals must meet the SSA definition of being “statutorily blind”. This is defined in the following manner:
“Statutory blindness is defined in the law as central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of correcting lens. An eye which has a limitation in the field of vision so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees is considered to have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less.” 20 CFR 404.1581
Visual impairments that do not meet the statutory blindness definition cannot be deemed “blind” for the purposes of SSA disability benefits. However, they may constitute “disability” provided that the disability requirements and all other non-medical factors of eligibility are met. In some cases, individuals will have visual impairments in combination with other disabling conditions. If the combination of conditions meets the disability standard, the individual may be found eligible for benefits as “disabled” instead of being found eligible due to statutory blindness.