Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

What are Social Security Disability Benefits?

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Editor’s Note: Many people who are blind and visually impaired might be eligible to receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. Unfortunately, the application process can be confusing and daunting. We are doing a three part series over the next months on the application process for people with vision loss who want information on how to receive benefits. We hope that these upcoming blog posts will help educate, inform and give clarity to this process.

If you or a loved one is blind or visually impaired, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can be used to offset lost income due to unemployment and can help cover the cost of day-to-day expenses.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two different benefit programs to help people who are disabled - Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs are intended to provide assistance to different groups of people and, therefore, have separate eligibility requirements.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The first of these programs, Social Security Disability Insurance, is intended to help disabled workers and their eligible family members. To qualify for SSDI, an individual must be formerly employed for a specified length of time and must have paid social security taxes. These requirements will vary slightly depending on how old you are and the age at which you became disabled.

To measure an applicant’s eligibility, the SSA assigns each applicant a specific number of “work credits.” The longer you have worked and paid taxes, the more work credits you will have earned. Because SSDI eligibility is focused around work history, these benefits are best suited for older applicants who have worked for a significant number of years. You can learn more about work credits and SSDI benefits here:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI benefits are intended to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals of all ages who earn very little income. Eligibility for this program is based on financial need. To qualify, your income and financial resources must fall within the parameters set by the SSA.

Because SSI is based on financial need rather than employment, individuals of any age can qualify for this type of benefit. Adults will be evaluated based on their income and any income that a spouse earns. Children will be evaluated based on the income that their parents or guardians earn. Learn more about qualifying for SSI, here:

Qualifying for SSDI and SSI benefits can be difficult. In addition to meeting the technical requirements explained above, all applicants must meet certain medical requirements. Check out the Sightseeing blog next week when we will cover these requirements.

For more information on Social Security benefits, go to or call 1-800-772-1213.