January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, drawing attention to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are legally blind and the millions who have impaired vision due to the condition. But what is glaucoma? And if you suffer from glaucoma, could you potentially be eligible for Social Security disability benefits?
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma isn’t one single disease. Rather, it’s a group of diseases that affect the eye and impair a person’s vision. The most common type of glaucoma is hereditary, so if glaucoma runs in your family, it’s important to know what kind of glaucoma so you better understand your risk for the condition.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. It occurs when a person’s drainage canals in the eye become slowly clogged. Undiagnosed and untreated, primary open-angle glaucoma results in gradual loss of eyesight. However, when caught early, it can typically be treated successfully with medication.
Different types of glaucoma may require different kinds of medical treatment. Surgery, whether conventional or laser, may be the best option.
What Does Social Security Say About Glaucoma?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) discusses visual disorders at length in the Special Senses and Speech – Adult section of the listing of impairments. Rather than focusing on the specific disease that caused your loss of vision, the SSA is more interested in the severity of your loss of vision. The Special Senses and Speech – Adult section details the ways in which the SSA defines statutory blindness and visual disorders and the ways in which they measure a person’s visual acuity.
It’s also important to remember that your glaucoma must be severe enough to prevent you from returning to work. The SSA doesn’t approve people for benefits just because they have medical evidence of a disability. It has to directly affect the person’s ability to work. That’s why it’s not enough to simply have a doctor vouch for you that you suffer from glaucoma; instead, measuring the severity of your vision loss helps the SSA determine whether or not your disability prevents you from returning to work.
How Blindness Affects Your Monthly Benefits
One of the ways the SSA measures whether or not a person’s disability keeps them from working is by determining if the person is engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial gainful activity is a monthly amount of income that indicates that applicants are working enough to support themselves without receiving a monthly disability benefit.
Each year, the specific amount of SGA changes due to inflation and other factors. For 2018, the maximum amount a person can make without being considered to be engaging in SGA is $1,180.
However, this changes if a person is statutorily blind. Because our society and economy depend so much on sight, the SSA acknowledges that those with vision loss may face “certain adverse economic consequences” unique to blindness. That’s why the SSA raises SGA for individuals who are statutorily blind to $1,970.
By making SGA greater for blind individuals, the SSA encourages the statutorily blind to work if they can without fearing that their work will put the benefits they depend on at risk.
If your glaucoma progresses to statutory blindness, you may be eligible for this increased level of SGA.
Help from an Indiana Social Security Disability Lawyer
Glaucoma isn’t just one disease. A group of diseases that affects the eye, glaucoma also varies in severity. Caught early enough, it may be treated. But caught too late, it may be a life-changing condition.
If you suffer from glaucoma and are unsure whether or not you would qualify for Social Security disability benefits, call Hensley Legal Group today. Our disability lawyers can review your case and help you begin the application process. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.