25 Sep 2013
Assuming you are in the United States, it is very easy to get on disability if you meet one of the two minimum vision requirements. With RP, this is typically a visual field of 20 degrees or less. The other vision requirement is best corrected vision of 20/200 or worse. Again, you only have to meet one of these, but if you do, it's VERY easy to get on disability, you just have to get medical documentation and apply.
If you don't meet either of these vision requirements, it's still possible to get disability based on vision loss, but it's more difficult. The SSA can take into account a combination of visual field loss and loss of acuity. They can also do a medical-vocational allowance, which takes into account your overall loss of vision, your age, education level, vocation, and the limitations your vision causes you. Both of these alternative methods are more difficult to use because the basis for the ruling is subjective.
The best thing to do is to get medical documentation and go ahead and apply. Remember that there is a difference between SSDI and SSI. Receiving SSDI is based on past work history, so if you apply for SSDI and are rejected, it may be because of insufficient work history. SSI does not require a work history, but the payment is less and will vary depending on any income you are currently earning.
Here is a Social Security publication about receiving disability because of visual impairment:
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