|Natalia Jofre:||Welcome to the Hill & Ponton Social Security Disability Blog. I am Natalia Jofre. I’m the Social Security section director here at our law firm.|
|Shelly Campbell:||I’m Shelly Campbell. I’m the senior Social Security attorney.|
|Natalia Jofre:||In a couple of our prior blogs, we talked about this. We went through the evaluation process, what that means, basically that the rules, the steps that Social Security looks at to determine if a person’s disabled. We talked about working and how Social Security evaluates that and then we talked about briefly the exception made for people that are legally blind. We’re going to talk about that in a lot more depth today. Legal blindness, first of all, not what everybody assumes because I know I’ve been to the doctor and the doctor’s like you’re legally blind. Well, this was true prior to LASIK surgery, but I could still work. I could still use glasses, contacts. That is my best-corrected vision.|
|I guess you give the definition of that, of what Social Security considers to be legal blindness.|
|Shelly Campbell:||Social Security considers an individual to be legally blind if their best-corrected vision is 20/200 or less or their peripheral vision is less than 20 degrees.|
|Natalia Jofre:||Right. Peripheral vision, this is what you see when you look forward. This over here is peripheral vision. If your basic scope of vision is no further than this, then that can qualify as legal blindness. Obviously, you’re not going to do that. This all needs to be in your medical records.|
|Shelly Campbell:||Right. They’re going to obviously need the medical records and the testing to support that. Your best-corrected vision is just going to be the vision, the best vision you have with your glasses, with your contacts, or in the situations where contacts or glasses are irrelevant, obviously, that wouldn’t be the case.|
|Natalia Jofre:||For example, you don’t have an eye. Well clearly, that doesn’t apply to you. We have had people call us though and say I’m legally blind or I don’t have a right eye, but they can see 20/20 in their left eye. They don’t qualify.|
|Shelly Campbell:||No, they don’t. This is one of the rules with Social Security that you either qualify for it or you do not. You can still be evaluated for your difficulties with vision under the disability program, but it just wouldn’t meet this particular exception because they wouldn’t be defined as legally blind.|
|Natalia Jofre:||Right. What Social Security is also looking at is okay is this person working? What’s different about people that are legally blind is they can make so much more money than a person that has any other disability. It’s a lot higher. You can look at our website. We’ll have the specific amount. We don’t mention it because it changes every year. It’s important to know because if you’re over that amount, then Social Security could automatically disqualify you. Now that being said, for people that are legally blind, you can discount a lot of expense. Right?|
|Shelly Campbell:||That’s correct. If you have expenses as far as cost to and from work, if you have to have transportation, seeing eye dogs, whatever you’re required to use to allow you to work, you are allowed to reduce that from your earnings.|
|Natalia Jofre:||I recently visited this facility where they help people who are legally blind and they were all in sheltered work and we talked a little bit about that during a different blog, but basically these people had special monitors, special books, they even had like a special iPad, where they were all designed to help them be able to do some type of work with all of this modern technology. It was very expensive equipment. All of that can be deducted from whatever they’re earning, and so it often allows them to still qualify and meet that basic income requirement.|
|Shelly Campbell:||Right. I think Social Security’s idea here is that although this person is able to work, the steps that they’re having to take and the accommodations and that the expenses that they’re incurring it gives them an exception and more of an opportunity to work because of the difficulties they face with employment.|
|Natalia Jofre:||Speaking of exceptions, one of the things too are how many earnings quarters do they have to have? Most people have to have worked and paid into Social Security tax five out of the last 10 years or at least a total of 10 years in their lifetime. With people that are found to be legally blind, they only need one-quarter of coverage for every year since their 21st birthday. That’s a huge difference because that means that if you worked for one year and you earned a full four quarters for that year, you basically have four years worth of coverage with Social Security.|
|Shelly Campbell:||That is correct, Natalia. They’re definitely trying to make it more easy for individuals that are legally blind to be paid under the disability program.|
|Natalia Jofre:||There’s a lot more. We could get into earnings quarters. We’ll do that during another blog, but it’s important for people to know that. It’s also important to know that this doesn’t have to be a lifetime disability and what I mean by that is I have a claim that we had that comes to mind. He had worked off and on his whole life, sometimes off the books. He was in construction, and so his work history was very erratic. He had some earnings. He had many years where he had no earnings recorded with Social Security. Well, when he was well into his 40s, he developed a condition and he became blind in a very short amount of time, within about six months. He was then able to be found disabled under the blindness rules.|
|Shelly Campbell:||That was great.|
|Natalia Jofre:||Even though he hadn’t qualified for regular disability up until then, he did have enough quarters under the blindness listings to qualify for benefits because he didn’t have to have as many quarters. I think what’s important for people to know is don’t ever sell yourself short, don’t assume that you’re not going qualify for benefits. Apply or talk to us or talk to Social Security, but talk to someone and make sure that you’re not basically convincing yourself that you don’t qualify. Let someone that knows what they’re looking for take a look at your case and whether you can qualify or not.|
|Shelly Campbell:||Definitely. There are a lot of exceptions and rules that people are not aware of. I would encourage anyone that feels like they would like their claim evaluated to contact us for more information.|
|Natalia Jofre:||Okay. Great. We’ll talk about the sequential evaluation process and the other rules and some other blogs, so stay tuned for those. Otherwise, thanks for watching and we’ll see you next time.|
|Shelly Campbell:||Thank you.|
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