Stargardt macular degeneration is a genetic eye condition that can progressively lead to vision loss. It currently is the most common form of juvenile macular degeneration, with symptoms beginning in early childhood. Medical experts estimate that Stargardt macular degeneration may affect as many as one in ten thousand individuals. Other common names for Stargardt macular degeneration can include juvenile macular degeneration, macular dystrophy with flecks, type 1, Stargardt disease, and STGD.
Recently on our disability forum a user asked, If I have Stargardt macular degeneration, which has caused severe loss of vision, will I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?
What is Stargardt macular degeneration?
Stargardt macular degeneration sufferers may have problems with the retina, the specialized light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. This condition can negatively affect what is called the macula, the center of the retina, making it difficult to complete common tasks such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.
Although there are several causes for this condition, the most common is caused when lipofuscin collects on the cells of the macula, leading to damaged cells. Not only do individuals with Stargardt macular degeneration have problems with acute vision loss, they also may have difficulty seeing at night.
Social Security Disability Insurance Qualifications
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI benefits is offered to claimants who have a severe mental or physical condition which does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months. Claimants must also have worked and earned sufficient work credits to be considered insured for SSDI benefits.
Claimants who do not have sufficient work credits, who are working and making too much money when they apply for SSDI benefits, or who have a condition which will not last for at least 12 continuous months will NOT be considered disabled, regardless of the severity of their health condition.
Determining disability for Stargardt macular degeneration
To make a disability determination the SSA will first review whether a claimant meets the nonmedical requirements for SSDI. Assuming they do, the SSA will then review whether a claimants condition is listed on the SSA Listing of Impairments (a general listing and corresponding symptoms the SSA assumes are disabling). If your condition is on the listing they will approve you for SSDI benefits.
The SSA does not list macular degeneration on its SSA Listing of Impairments, but it does provide guidelines regarding loss of vision and acuity. For more information about the listing you can review 2.00 Special Senses and Speech, Section for 2.02 Loss of Visual Acuity and Section 2.04 Loss of Visual Efficiency.
You will qualify for Social Security disability benefits under this listing if you can prove your visual acuity in your better eye is 20/200 or worse while you are wearing the best corrective lens available or your visual efficiency in your better eye (while wearing the appropriate corrective lenses) is 20% or less.
If your condition does not meet or exceed a listing you may still qualify for SSDI benefits if you can prove your condition is so severe it is not possible for you to continue doing any type of work for which you could reasonably be trained. Talk to a disability lawyer if you have more questions.