Does a visual impairment affect earnings limits?

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Does a visual impairment affect earnings limits?

Question from Phred:

I was diagnosed with PH back in 01/06 but finally saw a PH specialist in 08/07. After lots and lots of tests he determined I don't have it! I get SSD based on something else, but I also have histoplasmosis in my both of my eyes, which has caused me visual impairment. When I was working I had to use visual aids to do my job. The SGA amounts for the visually impaired is a lot higher than regular. In other words you can earn more per month. I know I qualify for a visual impairment, but the problem is they did not even consider my visual impairment when they gave me SSD. I sent for the CD and there was no record of a letter from my ophamologist in the file. I would like to go to our state bureau of visually impaired rehab and get a part time job and not affect my benefits, but how do I get the higher limit for visual impairments?

Response from Alan:

You're absolutely right about the two different limits that define "substantial gainful activity." For beneficiaries who are blind, the limit is higher than for beneficiaries who are not.

I noticed you used "visually impaired" in relation to that provision. Many times people use the phrase "visually impaired" as a euphamism for blindness, but the phrase is also used in a broader sense to describe myopia, astigmatism, color blindness and other less severe conditions. In this case, "statutory blindness" is used in SSA's regulations rather than "visual impairment."

So in order for SSA to use the higher limit, you must be not only be visually impaired, but statutorily blind. Although the medical definition for statutory blindness is a little long winded, the short version is that your best corrected eye must be 20/200 or worse. (There are also field of vision definitions.) see

The fact that SSA did not include statutory blindness in your disabling condition doesn't mean the higher limit isn't available. If you tell them you are statutorily blind as they evaluate your work, they will send your case to the Disability Determination Service to add a visual impairment to your diagnosis.

Hope you find this helpful


October 17, 2008


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