Individuals who are blind have been treated with special consideration by Social Security since the creation of the disability program in 1954. If someone meets the statutory blindness criteria, has limited work history, income and resources they will qualify for SSI even if they aren’t expected to be blind for 12 months or more. Once receiving SSI they can work and utilize the generous Blind Work Expenses (BWE) to ensure they can keep a good chunk, if not all, of their SSI check while working (see here for more details).

There are breaks for those with SSDI as well.  While the Trial Work Period figures are the same, the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level has always been significantly higher for those who are blind. The current SGA figure of $21,90 towers over everyone else’s $1,310.

There is, however, another quirk that Social Security devised, and that is how they deal with eligibility for those who are over 55. If an individual over that age engages in SGA in a job that does not require the same level of skills as the job she had before she was determined to be disabled she will keep her eligibility for SSDI. That’s the basic assertion by Social Security. Beyond that promise there is the fact that she will not be permitted the standard Trial Work Period. Instead she will operate in what is akin to a permanent Extended Period of Eligibility:  her check will be suspended for any month when she is performing at SGA, and she will receive the check in those months when she does not perform to that level. Of course, the good news is that she won’t have the concern about having her SSDI terminated so that is a positive element to bear in mind.

It’s also worth noting that if the new job requires all the skills of her job before she was 55 or became blind (whichever is later) she will get that TWP and will undergo the same regulations as those who have different disabilities, SGA differences notwithstanding.

Social Security have produced a decent and clear pamphlet on all things blindness and that can be accessed here: