Filing for Disability Benefits

by Bryan Mac Murray, Outreach Specialist, Social Security Disability Help

If you are a veteran experiencing vision loss, you may be receiving a pension from VA or VA disability benefits if you lost your sight while on duty. In addition to these resources, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

How to Medically Qualify for SSA Benefits with Blindness

The SSA considers legal blindness to be a qualified disability. Blindness is listed in the Blue Book, a resource used by the SSA to determine disability, under Section 2.00--Special Senses and Speech:

To meet a Blue Book listing, you must experience substantial vision loss in your best eye, which means:

  • Your visual efficiency can be no more than 20 percent, or
  • You can see no more than 20 degrees past a fixed point, or
  • Your corrected vision is worse than 20/200.

Social Security and VA Benefits Working in Tandem

There are two forms of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Medically, if you are legally blind, you will qualify for either program. Technically, the programs differ.

SSDI benefits are only for veterans who fall into the 18-65 age range and who paid Social Security taxes. Most veterans earn more than enough income throughout their career to qualify for SSDI benefits. Keep in mind that you need to have worked recently to qualify for SSDI as well. If you have not been on active duty or have not had another job for the past five years, you may no longer qualify for SSDI benefits.

SSI benefits are for veterans with the greatest needs. They are similar to a VA pension and are awarded on a resource and income-based need.

If you are on VA disability, your benefits will not be affected at all by receiving SSDI benefits. In fact, many veterans have an easier time qualifying for SSDI benefits because the SSA will take your VA disability rating into consideration when evaluating your claim.

If you are on a VA pension, you could qualify for SSI benefits, but your pension may be affected.

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

If you wish to apply for either SSI or SSDI benefits, your first stop should be the SSA’s website. SSDI applicants can complete the entire application form online while SSI applicants will need to stop by their local SSA office. Although the programs are different, VA benefits and Social Security benefits have the same goal: giving veterans the financial assistance they deserve.