Visual Disabilities Highlighted During UV Safety Month in July

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Social Security disability expert answers common questions about seeking benefits

Those with visual impairments must meet a number of requirements in order to receive Social Security disability benefits.

Serious vision disorders cause thousands of Americans to leave work and can qualify them for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, according to Allsup, which represents thousands of people applying for SSDI each month. Allsup and other organizations nationwide are raising awareness during UV Safety Month in July about the damage from ultraviolet rays.

Skin cancer is an obvious concern with UV rays. But exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays also contributes to eye disorders such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Protection includes UV-resistant sunglasses, wrap-around sunglasses and hats. Dozens of eye disorders can be disabling, said Ed Swierczek, an Allsup senior claimant representative. Some are diseases that people have heard of, such as glaucoma. Some visual conditions are complications related to other serious diseases, such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS. Others are rare but devastating.

“Visual impairments can be just as disabling as any other impairment,” Swierczek said, adding that if a person’s vision is so poor that work isn’t possible, applying for SSDI is appropriate.

SSDI is a federally mandated disability insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and it operates separately from the retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and who can no longer work because of a severe disability. Individuals and their employers pay for the federal insurance program with FICA taxes.

The SSA uses strict guidelines to determine if someone is eligible for Social Security benefits. More than two-thirds of applicants typically are denied benefits with their initial application. “Those with visual impairments must meet a number of requirements in order to receive Social Security disability benefits,” Swierczek said.

In 2011, about 110,400 disabled workers were receiving Social Security benefits because of blindness, according to the SSA.

Social Security Disability: Common Questions

How can a person know if he or she qualifies? There are a number of steps involved in the application process, and it begins with establishing that someone is eligible for benefits as a result of his or her work history. “Simply stated, Social Security Disability Insurance is an insurance program,” Swierczek explained. “You must be insured in order to file a claim for benefits, and Allsup representatives can help you determine your eligibility with a free disability evaluation.”

Following are additional common SSDI questions.

How do I know if I’m eligible for SSDI benefits? First, you must be insured. Generally, this means you have worked and paid enough into the program through payroll taxes (FICA taxes). Typically, you must have worked five of the last 10 years. In addition, you must have a severe disability and be under full retirement age. For more information on eligibility, call the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276.

When should I apply for SSDI benefits? A common mistake is waiting too long to apply for Social Security disability benefits. A diagnosed severe or permanent disability that will keep someone from working for 12 months or longer, or is terminal, signals the need to apply for SSDI benefits immediately upon stopping work. “You should begin sooner, rather than wait too long,” said Swierczek, adding, “The primary reason to file sooner than later is SSA only pays retroactive benefits (back pay) for 12 months prior to the date of filing. Therefore, if you wait a year or two to file for benefits, you have lost money you were entitled to because of SSA’s rule on receipt of retroactive benefits.”

Why should I get a representative for SSDI benefits? A representative like Allsup can help you find out before you apply if you are likely to qualify for SSDI benefits. In addition, you are more likely to get your SSDI benefits faster. Allsup is able to help more customers receive their SSDI awards with their initial applications (more than 50 percent compared with 34 percent national average). Find more information on Allsup’s website in the section “Why Allsup.”

What should I do if I’ve already been denied benefits? The SSA denies two-thirds of all initial applications. For thousands of people who have already attempted their SSDI application on their own, the denial is frustrating. But they still have the opportunity to get representation.

For questions about your disability appeal, call the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 or go to

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at

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Rebecca Ray
Allsup, Inc.
(800) 854-1418 65065
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Tai Venuti
Allsup, Inc.
(800) 854-1418 68573
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