Once an individual is determined to be eligible for Social Security disability, the same rules generally apply regardless of his or her disability. However, blindness is treated differently by the Social Security Administration (SSA) than all other disabilities. Accordingly, it is important to know what some of the differences are and how they may apply to you.
Three Differences That Are Important to Know About
Whether you are filing an initial application for Social Security disability or you have already been approved for benefits, it is important to know that:
- You can request a disability freeze. You may decide to keep working even if you are legally blind. However, you may not be able to earn as much as you otherwise would have because of your disability. Accordingly, you may be concerned that your Social Security retirement benefits may be lower in the future because of our lower earnings now. The SSA anticipates this potential problem and has a special rule for workers who are blind. Specifically, you can file for a “freeze.” If your freeze request is approved, the SSA will not consider your lower wages in any future Social Security retirement or Social Security disability benefits you receive.
- You can earn more than other Social Security disability recipients and continue to receive benefits. In 2016, a person who is legally blind can earn up to $1820 a month while continuing to receive Social Security disability benefits. Social Security disability recipients who are not blind may only earn $1130 a month. The exact amount of earnings is reconsidered each year and could change in the future.
- There are special rules that protect you from age 55 until retirement. If at age 55 or older you earn more than the monthly amount that allows you to qualify for benefits ($1820 a month in 2016) and you are working in a job that requires less skill than the work you did prior to age 55, the SSA may suspend, rather than terminate, your benefits. This means that you may still receive Social Security disability benefits without reapplying for them for any month when your income falls below $1820 a month.
Social Security disability is supposed to protect you. It is not supposed to make your life harder or more complicated. The SSA will provide notices and publications to you or your loved one in an accessible format, such as braille, upon request.
However, you should not count on the SSA to protect your rights and to provide you with the benefits you deserve. The SSA commonly denies valid Social Security disability applications based on technicalities. You can make sure that you get the benefits you deserve by working directly with an experienced Social Security disability attorney. To learn more, please call us directly at 877-898-1581.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.