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Disability Eligibility for SSI: Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series, Part 1 of 5

This month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explore the potential impact of Social Security benefits and related programs on young blind/low vision adults. In this first installment of the series, we explore disability-related eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What is SSI?

As you may know, U.S. workers can receive monthly “Social Security” checks when they retire. There is another type of monthly check available to individuals with blindness or other disabilities who do not have a work history it’s called “Supplemental Security Income” (“SSI”).

SSI is a social safety net. SSI helps disabled people ages birth through 64 who have little or no income by providing a monthly cash payment. People who receive SSI are also eligible for other federal and state government programs and benefits that can help a person with education costs and become ready to gain competitive employment. In this way, SSI and these other programs provide a bridge to independence.  

What kind of disabilities qualify a person to get SSI?

Legally Blind

Legal blindness meets the disability requirement to qualify for SSI so long as it has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months. Legal blindness is based on a clinical eye exam and can be met by either central visual acuity (“20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of correcting lens”) or visual field loss (“widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees”).

Not legally blind

Disability eligibility for SSI for people who do not meet either definition of “legal blindness” is different and requires more proof of disability. To find out more about SSI for children or adults who are not “legally blind,” please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Is that it?

No. There are more requirements to be met in order to qualify for SSI. Next week, the Free Bridges Helpdesk’s Transition Tip Tuesday will describe the “Income Limits for SSI Eligibility.”

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series

Part 1: Disability Eligibility for SSI (March 2)

Part 2: Income Limits for SSI Eligibility (March 9)

Part 3: Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility (March 16)

Part 4: More Than Just Money: Additional Benefits of Getting SSI (March 23)

Part 5: How to Apply for SSI and What to Expect (March 30)

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