You knew that something was wrong even before the doctor told you. Your glasses haven’t made a difference in your vision for a while now, and you can’t read the newspaper without squinting. How long will it be before you are unable to drive? And how can you provide for your family if your vision impairment prevents you from working?
Countless workers are faced with questions just like these every single day. While nearly 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, only 46 percent of adults with vision impairments are employed—leaving the majority of blind workers to seek Social Security disability payments for income and medical bills.
While the possible causes of blindness are nearly endless, the most common causes of vision impairment in New Jersey workers are:
- Cataracts – Cataracts, or a clouding of the eye lenses, is the most common cause of blindness worldwide. The blurred field of vision makes it difficult for victims to distinguish colors, recognize faces, and will eventually be unable to read or drive.
- Diabetic retinopathy – This disease is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the retina, resulting in spotty or blurred vision and eventual blindness.
- Macular degeneration – This condition results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field, and commonly affects older adults.
- Glaucoma – While most eye conditions affect the retina or lens, glaucoma affects the optic nerve. Increased pressure inside the eye can damage the optic nerve, preventing the transmission of images to the brain. Without surgery, glaucoma often results in permanent loss of vision.
The good news is that that Social Security program has a special category to provide for blind workers. However, they have strict rules to determine whether a worker can be considered legally blind. In most cases, a worker is considered blind when his central visual acuity is 20/200 or less with a visual field of less than 20 degrees when his vision is corrected—wearing glasses or contact lenses.
Unfortunately, many blind workers run into problems claiming their Social Security benefits. They may have difficulty proving that their condition makes it impossible for them to work, or be denied compensation for work-related medical costs. If someone you know cannot work due to loss of vision, be sure to mention this article to them or call our offices today to find out how we can help.