Red Book

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Introducing The Red Book

What's New In 2024?

Contacting Us

How Do We Define Disability?

Overview Of Our Disability Programs

Returning To Work

How Do Employment Supports Help?

Resources To Assist You Return To Work

Resources To Assist Youth With the Transition To A Successful Adulthood

SSDI and SSI Employment Supports

SSDI Only Employment Supports

SSI Only Employment Supports

Special Rules For Persons Who Are Blind

Additional Help With Health Care For Persons With Disabilities

Example of Concurrent Benefits With Employment Supports

Demonstration Projects Update


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Special Rules For People Who Are Blind

What do you mean by special rules for people who are blind?

Work incentives, in general, are special conditions that help you return to work or work for the first time. Congress included language in the law specifically to make it easier for people who are blind to go to work. These special rules apply only to people who are blind.

How do we define blindness?

Blindness is central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, or a limitation in the field of vision in the better eye so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less.

Do the same conditions of blindness apply in SSDI and SSI?

No. Under SSDI, this condition has to have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months. There is no duration requirement for blindness under SSI.


What work incentives are available only to people who are blind?

Blind work expenses are available if you receive SSI based on blindness.


How We Apply Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Under SSDI to People Who Are Blind

How do we determine SGA for blind SSDI beneficiaries who work?

The publication Working While Disabled: How We Can Help (Publication No. 05-10095) provides the SGA guidelines for blind workers. They are higher than the guidelines for non-blind workers with a disability. We generally change the SGA level every year to reflect changes in general wage levels.


If you are blind, you may use any or all of the deductions from earnings that apply to the SGA decision.

How do we apply SGA to blind SSDI beneficiaries who are self-employed?

We decide if work activity is SGA for self-employed people who are blind based solely on their earnings. We do not look at time spent in the business or services rendered as we do for non-blind self-employed people.

How do we determine SGA for SSDI beneficiaries who are blind and age 55 or older?

Special rules apply after your 55th birthday. If your earnings demonstrate SGA but your work requires a lower level of skill and ability than the work you did before age 55 or when you became blind, whichever is later, we will suspend, but not terminate, your benefits. Your eligibility for SSDI benefits continues indefinitely, and we pay your benefits for any month earnings fall below SGA.

Does SGA apply to people who are blind under SSI?


No. If you meet the medical definition of blindness, we do not use SGA as a factor to determine your SSI eligibility. Your SSI eligibility continues until you medically recover, or your eligibility ends because of a non- disability-related reason.

Blind Work Expenses (BWE) (SSI eligible)

How do BWE help you?

We do not count any earned income that you use to meet expenses necessary to earn that income when we decide if you are eligible for SSI and calculate your payment amount. To qualify you must be eligible for SSI based on blindness.

How is BWE different from impairment-related work expenses (IRWE)?

The BWE items do not have to be related to your blindness. When we calculate your SSI payment amount, we treat BWE items differently than IRWE. We do it this way because it always results in a higher SSI payment amount for you.

Examples of BWE

  • Service animal expenses.
  • Transportation to and from work.
  • Federal, state, and local income taxes.
  • Social Security taxes.
  • Attendant care services.
  • Visual and sensory aids.
  • Translation of materials into Braille.
  • Professional association fees.
  • Union dues.
Comparison of Monthly SSI Payment With BWE Versus IRWE

The table below shows how your monthly payment would be affected by BWE versus IRWE.

With $40 BWE With $40 IRWE
$361 --- Earned Income$361 --- Earned Income
   -20 --- General Income Exclusion    -20 --- General Income Exclusion
   -65 --- Earned Income Exclusion    -65 --- Earned Income Exclusion
  -138 --- 1/2 Remaining Earnings    -40 --- Impairment Related Work Expenses
$138 $236
   -40 --- Blind Work Expenses   -118 --- 1/2 Remaining Earnings
  $ 98 --- Countable Income  $118 --- Countable Income
  $841 --- 2022 Federal Benefit Rate   $841 --- 2022 Federal Benefit Rate
    -98 --- Countable Income    -118 --- Countable Income
  $743 --- SSI Payment   $723 --- SSI Payment
Accommodations for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

We recognize our duty to inform you of your rights and responsibilities under our programs. If You’re Blind or Have Low Vision- How We Can Help (Publication No. EN-05-10052).


We make every reasonable effort to maintain the accessibility of our webpages:


We offer the following delivery options for most of our letters and other communications:

  • Standard print notice by first class mail
  • Standard print notice by first class mail
  • Standard print notice by certified mail
  • Standard print notice by first class mail and a follow-up call to read the notice within 5 business days of the date of the notice;
  • Standard print notice and Braille by first class mail;
  • Standard print notice and a compact disc (CD) that contains a Microsoft Word file by first class mail. The Microsoft Word CD should work with most screen readers but not in an audio CD player.
  • Standard print notice and large print (18-point font) notice by first class mail; or
  • Standard print notice and an audio CD by first class mail. The audio CD should work in most CD players.

Please visit our website at to request one of the options listed above. You may also call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office.

If none of the options listed above work for you, please call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office to request another accommodation.

Publications are available in alternate formats

This book, The Red Book, and some other publications are available in alternative media. You can get some of these materials in Braille, audio CD, or enlarged print form. You can find a list of the publications available in alternate formats on our website at:

You may order these publications while you are online, or you may contact our Office of Printing and Alternative Media Services by fax at 410-965-6413. TTY users may call 1-800-325-0778.