Special Rules For Persons Who Are Blind

What do you mean by special rules for persons who are blind?

Employment supports, in general, are special rules that help you return to work or work for the first time. Congress included language in the law specifically to make it easier for persons who are blind to go to work. These special rules apply only to persons who are blind.

 

How do we define blindness?

Blindness is central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, or a limitation in the field of vision in the better eye so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less.

 

Do the same conditions of blindness apply in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

No. Under SSDI, this condition has to have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months. There is no duration requirement for blindness under SSI.

 

What employment supports are available only to persons who are blind?

Blind work expenses are available if you receive SSI based on blindness (see BWE).

 

How We Apply Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Under SSDI to Persons Who Are Blind

How do we determine SGA for blind SSDI beneficiaries who work?

For the year 2014, if you are blind, average monthly earnings over $1,800 will ordinarily demonstrate that you are performing SGA. This is higher than the current guideline for non-blind disabled workers. We generally change the SGA level for beneficiaries who are blind every year to reflect changes in general wage levels.

REMINDER

If you are blind, you may use any or all of the deductions from earnings that apply to the SGA decision.

How do we apply SGA to blindSSDI beneficiaries who are self-employed?

 

We decide if work activity is SGA for self-employed persons who are blind solely on their earnings. We do not look at time spent in the business or services rendered as we do for non-blind self-employed persons.

How do we determine SGA for SSDI beneficiaries who are blind andage 55 or older?

 

Special rules apply after your 55th birthday. If your earnings demonstrate SGA but your work requires a lower level of skill and ability than the work you did before age 55 or when you became blind, whichever is later, we will suspend, not terminate, your benefits. Your eligibility for SSDI benefits continues indefinitely, and we pay your benefits for any month earnings fall below SGA.

Does SGA apply to persons who are blind under SSI?

 

No. If you meet the medical definition of blindness, we do not use SGA as a factor to determine your SSI eligibility. Your SSI eligibility continues until you medically recover, or your eligibility ends because of a non-disability-related reason. See COMPARISON OF MONTHLY SSI PAYMENT WITH BWE VERSUS IRWE for an explanation of how we figure your SSI payment amount.

Blind Work Expenses (BWE) (SSI eligible)

How do BWE help you?

We do not count any earned income that you use to meet expenses that you need to earn that income when we decide if you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and figure your payment amount. To qualify you must be eligible for SSI based on blindness.

How is BWE different than impairment-related work expenses (IRWE)?

The BWE items do not have to be related to your blindness. When we figure your SSI payment amount, we treat BWE items differently than IRWE. We do it this way because it always results in a higher SSI payment amount for you. The table below shows how your monthly payment would be affected by BWE versus IRWE.

Examples of BWE

  • Service animal expenses
  • Transportation to and from work
  • Federal, state, and local income taxes
  • Social Security taxes
  • Attendant care services
  • Visual and sensory aids
  • Translation of materials into Braille
  • Professional association fees, and
  • Union dues.

Comparison of Monthly SSI Payment With BWE Versus IRWE

With $40 BWE With $40 IRWE
$361 --- Earned Income$361 --- Earned Income
   -20 --- General Income Exclusion    -20 --- General Income Exclusion
$341$341
   -65 --- Earned Income Exclusion    -65 --- Earned Income Exclusion
$276$276
  -138 --- 1/2 Remaining Earnings    -40 --- Impairment Related Work Expenses
$138 $236
   -40 --- Blind Work Expenses   -118 --- 1/2 Remaining Earnings
  $ 98 --- Countable Income  $118 --- Countable Income
  $721 --- 2014 Federal Benefit Rate   $721 --- 2014 Federal Benefit Rate
    -40 --- Blind Work Expenses    -118 --- Blind Work Expenses
  $623 --- SSI Payment   $603 --- SSI Payment

Accommodations for Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

 

We recognize our duty to inform you of your rights and responsibilities under our programs.

Website

We make every reasonable effort to maintain the accessibility of our websites:

Letters

We offer the following delivery options for most of our letters and other communications:

  • Standard print notice by first class mail
  • Standard print notice by certified mail
  • Standard print notice by first class mail and a follow-up call to read the notice within five business days of the date of the notice;
  • Standard print notice and Braille by first class mail;
  • Standard print notice and a compact disc (CD) that contains a Microsoft Word file by first class mail. The Word CD should work with most screen readers but not in an audio CD player.
  • Standard print notice and large print (18-point font) notice by first class mail; or
  • Standard print notice and an audio CD by first class mail. The audio CD should work in most CD players
Please visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/notices to request one of the options listed above. You may also call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office.

If none of the options listed above work for you, please call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office to request another accommodation.

Publications are available in alternate formats

This book, The Red Book, and some other publications are available in alternative media. You can get some of these materials in Braille, audiocassette tape, disk, or enlarged print form. You can find a list of the publications available in alternate formats on our website at: www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/alt-pubs.html.

You may order these publications while you are online, or you may contact our Braille Services Team by telephone at: 410-965-6414, or 410-965-6408, or by fax at 410-965-6413. TTY users may call 1-800-325-0778.