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How to Apply for Disability Benefits for Macular Degeneration

As macular degeneration progresses, it can affect your ability to work. The macula is the part of the eye that sees small details. As the macula declines, the eye struggles to process details. Reading, driving, or identifying objects up close becomes difficult. Doing tasks at work also may become tough.1

If you have severe macular degeneration, you may be able to get Social Security disability income.2

How can macular degeneration qualify me for disability benefits?

The Blue Book is the medical guide the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine disability. It does not specifically list macular degeneration. So, a macular degeneration diagnosis will not automatically meet the criteria for disability benefits. But you may still qualify for disability income if you have vision loss.2

The Blue Book section on vision loss or blindness (section 2.00) applies to macular degeneration. You may qualify if you cannot work for 12 months because of vision loss caused by macular degeneration.3,4

How can I qualify for disability income based on vision loss?

The SSA defines vision loss based on visual acuity or visual efficiency in your best eye. Visual acuity is the sharpness of vision. Visual efficiency measures how effectively vision can be used. An eye exam for a person with vision loss must show either:3

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  • Visual acuity of 20/200 or less with a corrective lens in the best eye
  • Visual efficiency of 20 percent or less with a corrective lens in the best eye

What if my vision loss is not severe enough?

Sometimes, vision loss does not meet the Blue Book disability criteria. In this case, you can provide other evidence to support your disability claim. You need to show that your macular degeneration prevents you from making significant income at all jobs you would be qualified to do.5

Residual functional capacity

A residual functional capacity assessment (RFC) supports a disability claim. The SSA may require an RFC. An RFC fills in details that the eye exam lacks. This form shows how your disease limits your ability to complete tasks at work. It assesses you in many areas, including:6

  • Physical restrictions
  • Mental restrictions
  • Sensory restrictions

You can find RFC forms on the Social Security Administration website.

Who should complete the RFC form?

You may choose to ask your doctor to fill out the RFC form. Your doctor knows your medical history best and can speak in favor of you. A disability determination doctor may also complete the form. Submitting 2 forms is fine.6

Including your doctor's insight is valuable. Ask your doctor to give as many details as possible. Detailed responses will show how your macular degeneration affects your ability to work.

Preparing a claim

There are many steps to submitting a Social Security disability claim. Gathering information before submitting will give you the best chance of success. You must fill out an application form. Forms are available online or at your local SSA office.4

Besides the application form, you should also prepare the following:4

  • A detailed list of all your doctors and their contact information
  • Your schooling and job history
  • Your financial records, including:
    • Proof of income (such as W2s)
    • Bank statements showing account balances
    • A list of assets

What medical records are needed?

A Social Security disability claim also must include a copy of your medical records. Details found in your medical records can help advance your claim. Work with your doctor to provide the strongest case possible. Items to include in the claim are:4

  • Medical tests diagnosing your macular degeneration, including eye exams and visual acuity tests
  • Notes from any surgeries done for your macular degeneration
  • Detailed notes about your macular degeneration diagnosis and treatment plan, which may be visit summaries or charting from your doctor

Hiring a disability lawyer

Consider hiring a disability lawyer to guide you through the claims process. Disability lawyers help gather your materials and ensure all your paperwork is in order. Hiring a lawyer may increase your chances of getting a disability claim approved.7

You will pay a disability lawyer after you receive disability benefits. The SSA will subtract lawyer fees from your awarded back pay.7

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