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How a Child Could Qualify for Disability Benefits with Vision Loss By Eric Minghella, Outreach Specialist from Disability Benefits

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May 1, 2019

Families with a child experiencing vision loss or bon without sight could be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for medical bills, glasses and other eye care, rent or a mortgage, and any other daily living needs that go towards your child’s wellbeing. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for tens of thousands of children with disabilities. While legal blindness always qualifies, financial eligibility is challenging to meet when you are applying on behalf of a child with visual impairment.

Technical Requirements for Disability Approval

SSI is only awarded when a family has a severe financial need, meaning the SSA sets income limits for people applying on behalf of a child with a disability. If you or a spouse earn too much, regardless of how severe their vision loss is, your child will not be approved. Your specific monthly income limit will vary depending on the size of your family.

In 2019, for example a single parent with one child cannot earn more than $38,000 per year while still having a child qualify for SSI. If you are in a two-parent household family of five, you could earn up to $55,000 per year and still be eligible. If you do not meet your unique income limit, the good news is that your income no longer counts against a child once he or she turns 18, even if they still live at home. If the child resides with the step parent or grandparents as legal guardian, their income is not counted toward the household income.

Medical Criteria Needed for Approval

The SSA uses its own medical guidebook, known colloquially as the Blue Book, to evaluate disability applicants and award benefits to those who meet criteria outlined in the resource.  Unfortunately, the Blue Book listing for vision loss is complicated because children are still able to qualify if their vision is impaired but not legally blind. Your child will qualify if his or her vision is worse than 20/200 with the supportive documentation but children can also qualify if they have difficulty seeing sharp images or seeing anything beyond a small fixed radius.

The Blue Book outlines exactly how optometrists can perform the SSA’s vision loss tests, so it is best read by a medical professional. Fortunately, the entire Blue Book can be found online so you can discuss your child’s eligibility with your eye physician.

Best Eye/Best Correction

An important thing to keep in mind is that your child must have severe vision loss despite attempting to correct his or her vision. Blindness in one eye may also qualify them. This means that if your child can see with glasses or contacts corrected to less than 20/2000 he or she will not be approved for disability. Vision tests also are recorded based on your child’s sight in the “best eye,” so if your child is only blind in one eye they also will not be approved.

Starting Your Application

When you are applying for SSI benefits, you must complete the entire process in person at the closest Social Security office. There are more than 1,300 SSA offices located across the country, with several in Las Vegas. Your child will not need to be with you when you apply in person—you will just need his or her personal information (birth records, SSN, etc.) and a list of the doctors who have treated your child so the SSA can gather medical evidence regarding his or her vision loss.

To make an appointment to apply in person, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

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