closeup of person filling out an application form

Supplemental Security Income and Visual Impairment

If your child is legally blind, you may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on his or her behalf. These benefits can be used to cover daily expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

This article will provide you with a general explanation of the SSI program and will prepare you to submit an application on behalf of a child who is blind or visually impaired.

What Is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a disability benefits program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This program offers financial assistance to disabled individuals of all ages who earn limited income. Children are generally good candidates for SSI benefits because there are no age or work requirements.

Because SSI only services low income individuals, applicants must submit records of their finances—including any income, owned resources, etc.—for evaluation. If your income exceeds the limits established by the SSA, your child will not receive SSI benefits.

Learn more about SSI eligibility for children.

Medical Eligibility for SSI for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As part of the SSI application process, the SSA will evaluate the severity of your child’s condition using the requirements found in their official manual of disabilities—commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” Childhood vision impairments are evaluated under Blue Book section 102.00—Special Senses and Speech. This listing contains several subsections under which your child may qualify. These include:

To qualify for disability benefits, your child will have to meet one of these three listings. Because the Blue Book uses complex medical terminology, it may be in your best interest to schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor to go over each of the medical requirements. A doctor or medical professional will be able to explain these criteria to you, run any necessary tests, and can give you some insight into your child’s eligibility. Be sure to collect all relevant records and test results at this appointment—you will need this information when it is time to submit your child’s claim.

The Application Process for Supplemental Security Income

In order to begin the application, you will need to schedule an in-person interview at your local Social Security Administration office. In preparation for this meeting, gather all of the medical documentation that is relevant to your child’s condition and medical history. You will also be required to submit financial records. To ensure that you are thoroughly prepared, consult the SSA’s Childhood Disability Interview Checklist (PDF).

When filling out the necessary application forms, be sure to take your time and be as detailed as possible. The SSA will want to know exactly how your child’s impairment affects their day-to-day life. If you miss any sections or provide false information, your claim will likely be denied. To submit a more effective application, consider including statements from professionals that interact with your child on a regular basis—this can be teachers, coaches, therapists, etc.

What Happens If Your SSI Application Is Denied?

After you have submitted your child’s SSI claim, you will not receive a decision for several months. If you are approved, you will receive a letter confirming your child’s benefit amount and payment schedule. If your child is denied, you will receive a letter containing the reason for his or her denial.

If you are denied, do not panic. This is quite common. You should remain calm and file an appeal as soon as possible. Many more applicants are approved during the appeals process than during the initial application.

Applying for Disability Benefits as Your Child Approaches Adulthood

For information about applying for adult disability benefits with a vision impairment, visit the following page: Special Senses/Speech Disabilities and Social Security Disability.