According to the Social Security Administration, legal blindness is defined as corrected vision of 20/200 or less in the better eye. Even with the use of the best vision correction methods, a legally blind individual would need to stand 20 feet away from an object to see it with the same clarity as someone with normal vision can see at 200 feet away. If you are considered legally blind, there are federal and state benefits you are entitled to receive.
Social Security Disability Income
Social Security Disability Income offers monthly benefits if you meet the definition of legally blind. To receive SSDI benefits, the blindness has to have lasted or must be expected to last at least 12 months. If you do not meet the definition of disabled, you may still qualify for SSDI benefits if your vision problems alone or when combined with other health problems keep you from working. In addition to meeting the disability definition set by the Social Security Administration, you must also meet the work requirement. You earn work credits based on your annual wages, with a maximum earning potential of four credits each year. The amount needed for each credit can change annually. At the time of publication, one credit is earned for every $1,160 you make in wages or self-employment income. The amount of credits you need to receive benefits will vary, depending on your age. If you qualify for SSDI, your benefit amount each month will be determined by your average lifetime earnings before becoming disabled. According to Nolo, the average SSDI monthly payments range from $700 to $1,400 a month as of 2013. The maximum SSDI benefit is $2,533 a month.
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income is available to people who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. In 2013, the maximum federal benefit amount for SSI is $710 a month. Blind SSI applicants are allowed to work and earn up to $1,740 per month. In addition to the SSI benefit, some states supplement the benefits. The supplement amount ranges from $10 to $400, depending on the state. Once you exceed $1,740 per month, the earnings are considered substantial gain and will reduce the SSI benefit amount. Under the Blind Work Expense rule, any expenses you had to pay so that you could work, such as a service animal expenses, are excluded from your countable income. The expenses do not have to be related to blindness. For example, union fees, transportation, and federal state and local income taxes are deducted from your countable income.
State agencies were established to provide rehabilitation services, blindness work training, independent living services and other related services to legally blind and visually impaired residents. The goal is to help the blind live independent lives. For adults, employment services are available. Legally blind children can receive the training and special assistance needed to be successful in school. Your local department of health and human services can help you locate the blind commission or division in your state.
Federal Tax Breaks
Taxpayers can choose to claim the standard tax deduction or itemize their deductions. Legally blind taxpayers are allowed an additional deduction on top of the standard deduction. In 2013, the additional amount is $1,500 for head of household and single filers. For married taxpayers who file joint or separate returns and widows, the additional amount is $1,200. The standard deductions and additional deduction amount are subject to change annually.
- Forbes: IRS Announces 2013 Tax Rates, Standard Deduction Amounts and More
- Social Security Administration: Special Rules for Persons Who Are Blind
- Social Security Administration: Disability Planner - How Much Work Do You Need?
- Disability Secrets: Income Limits and SSI Disability Eligibility
- Social Security Administration: If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision — How We Can Help
- Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services: Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- Nolo: Social Security Disability Benefits
- Disability Secrets: How Much In Social Security Disability Benefits Can You Get?
- Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 551 Standard Deduction." Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501 (2019), Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information." Accessed March 3, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "1040 Instructions (2017)," Page 38. Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Tips for Seniors in Preparing their Taxes." Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "1040EZ (2016): Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents," Page 2. Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501 (2019): Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Page 22. Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
- OurDocuments.Gov. "Social Security Act (1935)." Accessed March 3, 2020.
- National Federation of the Blind. "History and Governance." Accessed Feb. 18, 2020.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.