Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Eye and Visual Problems?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with eye and visual problems to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve.
SSA evaluates visual problems based on the remaining visual acuity in the better eye, the level of peripheral field contraction in the better eye, and the loss of visual efficiency in the better eye. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your visual problems won’t prevent you from working at least 12 months,
(2) Your visual problems aren’t severe,
(3) Your visual problems don’t meet the requirements of, or is the equivalent of, a Medical Listing,
(5) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(6) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of visual problems are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with visual problems.
You have to prove that your visual problems interfere with your daily activities. Ms. Cavey works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician by showing that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or
- Proving that your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Are The Most Common Disabling Eye and Visual Problems?
More than 40 different types of eye diseases can make it difficult to see clearly or to see at all. It isn’t uncommon for visual problems to be caused by stroke, seizure, brain injury, neurological problems or vestibular problems. Eye and visual problems can be broken down into two types.
The term “low vision” or “vision loss” simply means the person has difficulty seeing, which can result from eye disease or other health conditions. The most common causes of low vision are:
- Diabetic retinopathy, where diabetes has damaged the blood vessels in the retina,
- Age-related macular degeneration, where cells in the retina that allow them to see fine details have died,
- Glaucoma, which causes damage to the optic nerve as a result of fluid pressure, and
- Cataracts, which causes clouding of the lens of the eye.
There are four levels of visual dysfunction:
- Partially Sighted,
- Low vision,
- Legally blind, and
Visual dysfunction can be caused by trauma, retinal degeneration, muscular problems, corneal disorders, congenital disorders and even infection.
What SSA Wants to See in Your Medical Records
SSA will review your medical records and look for the following:
- A diagnosis of visual problems,
- Detailed description of your typical eye problems, including symptoms,
- Statement from your physician corroborating your account of the nature and frequency of your eye problems,
- A description of your eye problems from a third party,
- A record indicating the frequency of your visual problems,
- Results of testing,
- Detailed treatment history, including medication, and your response, and
- Evidence that you have complied with treatment, including blood work that proves at least a three-month compliance with medication.
Visual Problems and The Listing Of Impairments
There aren’t separate listing that address macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or cataracts in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” As noted earlier, the SSA uses a “better eye” analysis for the measureable loss of visual ability using Listing 2.02.
SSA will evaluate your medical records and your residual or remaining visual acuity and peripheral vision in both eyes. If one of your eyes meets the listing requirements but the other doesn’t, you don’t meet a listing.
However if your visual problems fall under or are equal to a listing, you might be approved for benefits at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
If you have visual problems and, for example, another medical impairment as a result of diabetes, SSA is required to consider the combined effects of your impairments when determining if your condition is equal to a listing or when doing you RFC analysis at Steps 4 and 5.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, then SSA will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5. Because the listing requirements are difficult to meet, SSA finds that most disability applicants don’t meet a Listing.
When Your Visual Problems Make It Impossible to Work
If your visual problems don’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your visual problems.
Residual Functional Capacity For Visual Problems
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that explain:
- How far you can walk,
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour work day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight-hour work day,
- What visual problems you have and how they impact your ability to see,
- Whether you have limitations on your ability to drive,
- Whether you have limitations on your ability to use the computer,
- Whether you have problems concentrating because of your vision,
- What other complications you have from other diseases, such as diabetes,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems, including depression or anxiety, that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a visual, diabetes or other applicable RFC forms. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Claims for visual problems are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve For My Visual Problems?
Visual problems can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- file your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits;
- challenge a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration;
- file a Request for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by experienced Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Visual problems can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.