Social Security Ruling, SSR 18-02p; Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Blindness Claims, 49621-49623 [2018-21369]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 191 / Tuesday, October 2, 2018 / Notices be expected to improve the individual’s functioning so that he or she is not disabled, we would find that DAA is material to the determination of disability and deny the claim for that reason. [FR Doc. 2018–21359 Filed 10–1–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4191–02–P SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Program Nos. 96.001, Social Security— Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security—Retirement Insurance; 96.004, Social Security—Survivors Insurance; 96.006, Supplemental Security Income) [Docket No. SSA–2018–0011] Social Security Ruling, SSR 18–02p; Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Blindness Claims AGENCY: Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. ACTION: Policy Interpretation Ruling Social Security Administration. Notice of Social Security Ruling (SSR). We are providing notice of SSR 18–02p, which rescinds and replaces the following sections of SSR 83–20, ‘‘Titles II and XVI: Onset of Disability,’’—(1) ‘‘Title II: Blindness Cases,’’ and (2) ‘‘Title XVI—Specific Onset is Necessary,’’ as it applies to blindness claims. Specifically, this SSR addresses how we determine the EOD in blindness claims under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). We concurrently published a separate SSR, SSR 18–01p, ‘‘Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Disability Claims,’’ which rescinded and replaced all other parts of SSR 83–20. Therefore, SSR 83–20 is completely rescinded and replaced by SSR 18–01p and SSR 18–02p. DATES: We will apply this notice on October 2, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan O’Brien, (410) 597–1632, Dan.OBrien@ ssa.gov. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national tollfree number at 1–800–772–1213, or visit our internet site, Social Security online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) and (a)(2) do not require us to publish this SSR, we are publishing it in accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). We use SSRs to make available to the public precedential decisions relating to the Federal old age, survivors, disability, supplemental security income, and special veterans benefits programs. We may base SSRs on determinations or decisions made in our administrative review process, Federal court decisions, decisions of our Commissioner, opinions from our Office of the General Counsel, or other interpretations of law and regulations. SUMMARY: amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 Although SSRs do not have the force and effect of law, they are binding on all components of the Social Security Administration in accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the Federal Register that rescinds it, or until we publish a new SSR in the Federal Register that rescinds and replaces or modifies it. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Oct 01, 2018 Jkt 247001 Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Blindness Claims We are providing notice of SSR 18– 02p which rescinds and replaces the following sections of SSR 83–20: ‘‘Titles II and XVI: Onset of Disability,’’—(1) ‘‘Title II: Blindness Cases,’’ and (2) ‘‘Title XVI—Specific Onset is Necessary,’’ as it applies to blindness claims. Concurrently, we published a separate SSR, SSR 18–01p, ‘‘Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Disability Claims,’’ which rescinded and replaced all other parts of SSR 83–20. Therefore, as of October 2, 2018, the date this SSR was published in the Federal Register, SSR 83–20 is completely rescinded and replaced by SSR 18–01p and SSR 18– 02p. Purpose: This SSR explains how we determine the EOD in blindness claims under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). Citations: Sections 216, 220, 223, 1602, 1611, and 1614 of the Act, as amended; Public Law 108–203, 118 STAT. 535; 20 CFR 404.110, 404.130, 404.303, 404.315–.316, 404.320–.321, 404.335–.336, 404.350–.351, 404.1505, 404.1510, 404.1512, 404.1572, 404.1581–.1584, 416.202, 416.305, 416.912, 416.981–.984. Policy Interpretation: To be entitled to disability insurance (DI) benefits under title II of the Act or eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments under title XVI of the Act based on blindness, a claimant must file an application, meet the relevant statutory definition(s), and satisfy the applicable non-medical requirements. If we find that a claimant meets the relevant statutory definitions and meets the applicable non-medical requirements during the period covered PO 00000 Frm 00092 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 49621 by his or her application, we then determine the claimant’s EOD. The EOD is the earliest date that the claimant meets both the relevant definitions and non-medical requirements during the period covered by his or her application. Outline I. What is the EOD? A. What is the statutory definition of blindness? B. What are the statutory definitions of disability for blind claimants and when do they apply? 1. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind claimant who is younger than 55? 2. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind claimant who is age 55 or older? C. What are the non-medical requirements? II. What are some special considerations related to the EOD? A. What if a claimant meets all the requirements for DI benefits or SSI payments based on blindness and based on another impairment? B. What happens when a claimant applies for DI benefits under title II and meets the statutory definition of blindness, but continues to work? III. When is this SSR applicable? Discussion I. What is the EOD? For title II blindness claims, the EOD is the earliest date that the claimant meets the statutory definitions of blindness and disability 1 and the applicable non-medical requirements 2 for entitlement to benefits during the period covered by his or her application. For title XVI blindness claims, the EOD is the earliest date that the claimant meets the statutory definition of blindness 3 and the 1 42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B) (defining blindness), 423(d)(1)(A) (defining disability for blind individuals younger than age 55), 423(d)(1)(B) (defining disability for statutorily blind individuals age 55 and older); 20 CFR 404.1581 (defining blindness), 404.1582 (explaining how we determine a period of disability based on blindness), 404.1583 (explaining how we determine disability for blind persons who are age 55 or older). 2 See, e.g., 20 CFR 404.315, 404.316, 404.320, 404.321 (setting forth some of the non-medical requirements for title II DI benefits), 20 CFR 404.335, 404.336 (same for title II disabled widow(er)’s benefits (DWB)), 20 CFR 404.350, 404.351 (same for title II childhood disability benefits (CDB)). 3 42 U.S.C. 1381a (‘‘Every aged, blind, or disabled individual who is determined . . . to be eligible on the basis of his income and resources shall, in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this title, be paid benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security’’) (emphasis added), 1382(a) (defining an eligible individual), 1382c(a)(2) E:\FR\FM\02OCN1.SGM Continued 02OCN1 49622 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 191 / Tuesday, October 2, 2018 / Notices applicable non-medical requirements 4 for eligibility for SSI payments during the period covered by his or her application. A. What is the statutory definition of blindness? Titles II and XVI of the Act define blindness as central visual acuity of 20/ 200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens. We consider an eye to have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less when it has a limitation in the fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.5 Under title XVI of the Act, an individual may also be considered blind if he or she: (1) Was found blind under a State plan approved under title X or XVI of the Act as in effect for October 1972; (2) received aid under that plan because of blindness for December 1973; and (3) continues to be blind as defined under that plan.6 B. What are the statutory definitions of disability for blind claimants and when do they apply? amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 A claimant who seeks DI benefits under title II based on blindness must show that he or she meets the statutory definition of blindness as well as the statutory definition of disability during the period under consideration.7 A claimant who seeks SSI payments under title XVI based on blindness need only show that he or she meets the statutory definition of blindness during the period under consideration.8 Title II of the Act defines disability differently for those who are younger than age 55 and those who are age 55 or older. (defining blindness); 20 CFR 416.981 (defining blindness), 419.982 (explaining when we will consider an individual to be blind based on a State plan). 4 See, e.g., 20 CFR 416.202, 416.305 (setting forth some of the non-medical requirements for title XVI SSI payments). 5 42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B), 1382C(a)(2); 20 CFR 404.1581, 416.981. 6 42 U.S.C. 1382c(a)(2); 20 CFR 416.982. 7 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A), (B); 20 CFR 404.1512(a), 404.1582, 404.1583. 8 42 U.S.C. 1381a (‘‘Every aged, blind, or disabled individual who is determined . . . to be eligible on the basis of his income and resources shall, in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this title, be paid benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security’’) (emphasis added), 1382(a) (defining an eligible individual); 20 CFR 416.912 (providing that, in general, a claimant must prove to us that he or she is blind), 416.981 (defining blindness), 416.982 (explaining when we will consider an individual to be blind based on a State plan). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Oct 01, 2018 Jkt 247001 1. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind claimant who is younger than 55? For claimants who meet the statutory definition of blindness during the period under consideration and are younger than age 55, the Act defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) 9 by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.10 2. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind claimant who is age 55 or older? For claimants who meet the statutory definition of blindness during the period under consideration and are age 55 or older, the Act defines disability as the inability by reason of such blindness to engage in SGA requiring skills or abilities comparable to those of any gainful activity in which the claimant has previously engaged with some regularity and over a substantial period of time.11 C. What are the non-medical requirements? A claimant is not entitled to DI benefits or eligible for SSI payments based on blindness unless he or she meets the applicable non-medical requirements. The non-medical requirements—such as the insured status requirements under title II and the income and resource limitations under title XVI—vary based on the type(s) of claim(s) the claimant filed. To illustrate, we identify below the most common types of claims and some of the regulations that explain the nonmedical requirements for that type of claim. • DI Benefits: 20 CFR 404.315, 404.316, 404.320, 404.321; • Disabled Widow(er)’s Benefits (DWB): 20 CFR 404.335, 404.336; • Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB): 20 CFR 404.350, 404.351; and • SSI: 20 CFR 416.202, 416.305. 9 20 CFR 404.1510 (defining SGA as significant and productive physical or mental duties done (or intended) for pay or profit), 404.1572 (providing further details about what we mean by SGA); see also 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(4)(A), 20 CFR 404.1584 (collectively describing how to calculate SGA for claimants who meet the statutory definition of blindness). 10 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A). 11 Id. at (d)(1)(B). PO 00000 Frm 00093 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 II. What are some special considerations related to the EOD? A. What if a claimant meets all the requirements for DI benefits or SSI payments based on blindness and based on another impairment? If a claimant meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI benefits or eligibility for SSI payments based on blindness, and also meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI benefits or eligibility for SSI payments based on another impairment, we will establish two EODs. One EOD will be for the first date the claimant meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI benefits or eligibility for SSI payments based on blindness, and the other will be for the first date the claimant meets all the requirements based on the other impairment. The EOD for the other impairment may be before or after the EOD for blindness. B. What happens when a claimant applies for DI benefits under title II and meets the statutory definition of blindness, but continues to work? If a claimant applies for DI benefits under title II and meets the insured status requirements 12 and the statutory definition of blindness, but continues to work (even at the SGA level), we may establish a period of disability for him or her. A period of disability must last for at least five consecutive, full calendar months.13 If we establish a period of disability, we ‘‘freeze’’ the claimant’s earnings during that period and will not use them to compute cash benefits (unless it advantages the claimant) or to determine whether the claimant still has insured status.14 However, a period of disability, or disability freeze, does not automatically entitle the claimant to monthly cash benefits.15 To be entitled to monthly cash benefits, the claimant must still meet the statutory definitions of blindness and disability and the 12 20 CFR 404.110 (describing how we determine fully insured status and explaining that an individual needs at least six quarters of coverage but not more than 40 quarters of coverage to be fully insured), 404.130(e) (explaining that a claimant is insured in a quarter for purposes of establishing a period of disability or becoming entitled to DI benefits if in that quarter the claimant meets the statutory definition of blindness and is fully insured). 13 20 CFR 404.320(a), (b)(4) (explaining that ‘‘[a] period of disability is a continuous period of time during which you are disabled’’ and that one of the requirements to be ‘‘entitled to a period of disability . . . [is that a]t least 5 consecutive months go by from the month in which [the claimant’s] period of disability begins and before the month in which it would end’’). 14 42 U.S.C. 420; 20 CFR 404.1582. 15 20 CFR 404.1582. E:\FR\FM\02OCN1.SGM 02OCN1 amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 191 / Tuesday, October 2, 2018 / Notices applicable non-medical requirements during the period covered by his or her application. For purposes of determining the EOD, if we find that the claimant meets the insured status requirements and the statutory definition of blindness, but he or she is performing SGA, we will establish up to two dates. First, we will establish a disability freeze date, which is the date the claimant first met the insured status requirements and the statutory definition of blindness. If the claimant later stops working or his or her work is no longer SGA, we will establish a second date called the ‘‘adjusted blind onset date’’ (ABOD). The ABOD is the date the claimant stopped performing SGA and became entitled to monthly cash benefits under title II of the Act, subject to a five-month waiting period. The five-month waiting period begins with the first full month that the claimant does not perform SGA. However, if the claimant is age 55 or older and performing SGA, we consider how the claimant’s work activity compares with work he or she did in the past.16 We consider work to be noncomparable if it requires skills and abilities that are less than or different from those the claimant used in the work he or she did in the past.17 If the claimant is age 55 or older and performing ‘‘non-comparable’’ SGA, we will count the months the claimant performs ‘‘non-comparable’’ SGA in the waiting period if they also fall within the period of disability. We cannot establish a disability freeze for DWB or CDB claimants under title II of the Act. There is also no freeze equivalent for SSI claimants under title XVI of the Act. However, to be eligible for SSI payments based on disability under title XVI, a claimant need only meet the statutory definition of blindness and the applicable nonmedical requirements. Thus, a claimant seeking SSI payments based on blindness need not show that he or she is unable to perform SGA, but if the claimant is working, we will consider his or her earnings under the income and resource rules of title XVI of the Act.18 When a claimant’s income or resources exceed the Act’s limitations, he or she is ineligible for SSI payments under title XVI because he or she does not meet the applicable non-medical requirements,19 even though the 16 20 CFR 404.1584(c). 17 Id. 18 20 CFR 416.983(b), 416.984. CFR 416.202(c), (d) (explaining that to be eligible for SSI payments, a claimant may not have ‘‘more income than is permitted’’ or ‘‘more resources than are permitted’’). 19 20 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Oct 01, 2018 Jkt 247001 claimant meets our statutory definition of blindness.20 III. When is this SSR applicable? This SSR is applicable on October 2, 2018. We will use this SSR beginning on its applicable date. We will apply this SSR to new applications filed on or after the applicable date of the SSR and to claims that are pending on and after the applicable date. This means that we will use this SSR on and after its applicable date in any case in which we make a determination or decision. We expect that Federal courts will review our final decisions using the rules that were in effect at the time we issued the decisions. If a court reverses our final decision and remands a case for further administrative proceedings after the applicable date of this SSR, we will apply this SSR to the entire period at issue in appropriate cases when we make a decision after the court’s remand. [FR Doc. 2018–21369 Filed 10–1–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4191–02–P SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BASIN COMMISSION Actions Taken at September 7, 2018, Meeting Susquehanna River Basin Commission. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: As part of its regular business meeting held on September 7, 2018, in Binghamton, New York, the Commission approved or tabled the applications of certain water resources projects, and took additional actions, as set forth in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION below. DATES: September 7, 2018. ADDRESSES: Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 4423 N Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110–1788. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ava Stoops, Administrative Specialist, telephone: 717–238–0423; fax: 717– 238–2436; srbc@srbc.net. Regular mail inquiries may be sent to the above address. See also Commission website at www.srbc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In addition to the actions taken on projects identified in the summary above and the listings below, the following items were also presented or acted upon at the business meeting: (1) Tabling the release of a proposed rulemaking for consideration at a future Commission meeting; (2) adoption of an update to SUMMARY: 20 20 PO 00000 CFR 416.984. Frm 00094 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 49623 the Commission’s investment policy statement addenda; (3) granting a request from Lycoming County Water & Sewer Authority to extend the deadline to commence withdrawal by two years; (4) approval of several grant amendments and agreements, and an equipment purchase; (5) tabling action on a resolution for a consumptive use water storage and mitigation project at Billmeyer Quarry for consideration at the December 2018 Commission meeting; and (6) a report on a delegated settlement, pursuant to Commission Resolution 2014–15, with Moxie Freedom, LLC, in the amount of $1,200. Project Applications Approved The Commission approved the following project applications: 1. Project Sponsor and Facility: ARD Operating, LLC (Pine Creek), McHenry Township, Lycoming County, Pa. Renewal of surface water withdrawal of up to 0.499 mgd (peak day) (Docket No. 20140902). 2. Project Sponsor and Facility: BKV Operating, LLC (East Branch Wyalusing Creek), Jessup Township, Susquehanna County, Pa. Renewal of surface water withdrawal of up to 0.999 mgd (peak day) (Docket No. 20140904). 3. Project Sponsor and Facility: Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (Tunkhannock Creek), Nicholson Township, Wyoming County, Pa. Renewal of surface water withdrawal of up to 2.000 mgd (peak day) (Docket No. 20140903). 4. Project Sponsor and Facility: Columbia Water Company, Hellam Township, York County, Pa. Groundwater withdrawal of up to 0.015 mgd (30-day average) from Dugan Well 4. 5. Project Sponsor and Facility: Eclipse Resources-PA, LP (Cowanesque River), Deerfield Township, Tioga County, Pa. Surface water withdrawal of up to 3.000 mgd (peak day). 6. Project Sponsor and Facility: Elizabethtown Area Water Authority, Elizabethtown Borough, Lancaster County, Pa. Renewal of groundwater withdrawal of up to 0.300 mgd (30-day average) from Well 5 (Docket No. 19880402). 7. Project Sponsor and Facility: Inflection Energy (PA) LLC (Loyalsock Creek), Upper Fairfield Township, Lycoming County, Pa. Renewal of surface water withdrawal of up to 1.700 mgd (peak day) (Docket No. 20140905). 8. Project Sponsor: Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. Project Facility: Solid Waste Resource Recovery, Conoy Township, Lancaster County, Pa. Renewal of consumptive use of up to 0.950 mgd (peak day) (Docket No. 19880901). E:\FR\FM\02OCN1.SGM 02OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 191 (Tuesday, October 2, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49621-49623]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-21369]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

[Docket No. SSA-2018-0011]


Social Security Ruling, SSR 18-02p; Titles II and XVI: 
Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Blindness Claims

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice of Social Security Ruling (SSR).

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SUMMARY: We are providing notice of SSR 18-02p, which rescinds and 
replaces the following sections of SSR 83-20, ``Titles II and XVI: 
Onset of Disability,''--(1) ``Title II: Blindness Cases,'' and (2) 
``Title XVI--Specific Onset is Necessary,'' as it applies to blindness 
claims. Specifically, this SSR addresses how we determine the EOD in 
blindness claims under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act 
(Act). We concurrently published a separate SSR, SSR 18-01p, ``Titles 
II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Disability 
Claims,'' which rescinded and replaced all other parts of SSR 83-20. 
Therefore, SSR 83-20 is completely rescinded and replaced by SSR 18-01p 
and SSR 18-02p.

DATES: We will apply this notice on October 2, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan O'Brien, (410) 597-1632, 
[email protected]. For information on eligibility or filing for 
benefits, call our national toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, or 
visit our internet site, Social Security online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) and (a)(2) do 
not require us to publish this SSR, we are publishing it in accordance 
with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1).
    We use SSRs to make available to the public precedential decisions 
relating to the Federal old age, survivors, disability, supplemental 
security income, and special veterans benefits programs. We may base 
SSRs on determinations or decisions made in our administrative review 
process, Federal court decisions, decisions of our Commissioner, 
opinions from our Office of the General Counsel, or other 
interpretations of law and regulations.
    Although SSRs do not have the force and effect of law, they are 
binding on all components of the Social Security Administration in 
accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1).
    This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the 
Federal Register that rescinds it, or until we publish a new SSR in the 
Federal Register that rescinds and replaces or modifies it.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 96.006, 
Supplemental Security Income)

Nancy A. Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

Policy Interpretation Ruling

Titles II and XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in 
Blindness Claims

    We are providing notice of SSR 18-02p which rescinds and replaces 
the following sections of SSR 83-20: ``Titles II and XVI: Onset of 
Disability,''--(1) ``Title II: Blindness Cases,'' and (2) ``Title XVI--
Specific Onset is Necessary,'' as it applies to blindness claims. 
Concurrently, we published a separate SSR, SSR 18-01p, ``Titles II and 
XVI: Determining the Established Onset Date (EOD) in Disability 
Claims,'' which rescinded and replaced all other parts of SSR 83-20. 
Therefore, as of October 2, 2018, the date this SSR was published in 
the Federal Register, SSR 83-20 is completely rescinded and replaced by 
SSR 18-01p and SSR 18-02p.
    Purpose: This SSR explains how we determine the EOD in blindness 
claims under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act).
    Citations: Sections 216, 220, 223, 1602, 1611, and 1614 of the Act, 
as amended; Public Law 108-203, 118 STAT. 535; 20 CFR 404.110, 404.130, 
404.303, 404.315-.316, 404.320-.321, 404.335-.336, 404.350-.351, 
404.1505, 404.1510, 404.1512, 404.1572, 404.1581-.1584, 416.202, 
416.305, 416.912, 416.981-.984.
    Policy Interpretation:
    To be entitled to disability insurance (DI) benefits under title II 
of the Act or eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments 
under title XVI of the Act based on blindness, a claimant must file an 
application, meet the relevant statutory definition(s), and satisfy the 
applicable non-medical requirements. If we find that a claimant meets 
the relevant statutory definitions and meets the applicable non-medical 
requirements during the period covered by his or her application, we 
then determine the claimant's EOD. The EOD is the earliest date that 
the claimant meets both the relevant definitions and non-medical 
requirements during the period covered by his or her application.

Outline

I. What is the EOD?
    A. What is the statutory definition of blindness?
    B. What are the statutory definitions of disability for blind 
claimants and when do they apply?
    1. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II 
blind claimant who is younger than 55?
    2. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II 
blind claimant who is age 55 or older?
    C. What are the non-medical requirements?
II. What are some special considerations related to the EOD?
    A. What if a claimant meets all the requirements for DI benefits or 
SSI payments based on blindness and based on another impairment?
    B. What happens when a claimant applies for DI benefits under title 
II and meets the statutory definition of blindness, but continues to 
work?
III. When is this SSR applicable?

Discussion

I. What is the EOD?

    For title II blindness claims, the EOD is the earliest date that 
the claimant meets the statutory definitions of blindness and 
disability \1\ and the applicable non-medical requirements \2\ for 
entitlement to benefits during the period covered by his or her 
application. For title XVI blindness claims, the EOD is the earliest 
date that the claimant meets the statutory definition of blindness \3\ 
and the

[[Page 49622]]

applicable non-medical requirements \4\ for eligibility for SSI 
payments during the period covered by his or her application.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ 42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B) (defining blindness), 423(d)(1)(A) 
(defining disability for blind individuals younger than age 55), 
423(d)(1)(B) (defining disability for statutorily blind individuals 
age 55 and older); 20 CFR 404.1581 (defining blindness), 404.1582 
(explaining how we determine a period of disability based on 
blindness), 404.1583 (explaining how we determine disability for 
blind persons who are age 55 or older).
    \2\ See, e.g., 20 CFR 404.315, 404.316, 404.320, 404.321 
(setting forth some of the non-medical requirements for title II DI 
benefits), 20 CFR 404.335, 404.336 (same for title II disabled 
widow(er)'s benefits (DWB)), 20 CFR 404.350, 404.351 (same for title 
II childhood disability benefits (CDB)).
    \3\ 42 U.S.C. 1381a (``Every aged, blind, or disabled individual 
who is determined . . . to be eligible on the basis of his income 
and resources shall, in accordance with and subject to the 
provisions of this title, be paid benefits by the Commissioner of 
Social Security'') (emphasis added), 1382(a) (defining an eligible 
individual), 1382c(a)(2) (defining blindness); 20 CFR 416.981 
(defining blindness), 419.982 (explaining when we will consider an 
individual to be blind based on a State plan).
    \4\ See, e.g., 20 CFR 416.202, 416.305 (setting forth some of 
the non-medical requirements for title XVI SSI payments).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

A. What is the statutory definition of blindness?

    Titles II and XVI of the Act define blindness as central visual 
acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting 
lens. We consider an eye to have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or 
less when it has a limitation in the fields of vision such that the 
widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 
20 degrees.\5\ Under title XVI of the Act, an individual may also be 
considered blind if he or she: (1) Was found blind under a State plan 
approved under title X or XVI of the Act as in effect for October 1972; 
(2) received aid under that plan because of blindness for December 
1973; and (3) continues to be blind as defined under that plan.\6\
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    \5\ 42 U.S.C. 416(i)(1)(B), 1382C(a)(2); 20 CFR 404.1581, 
416.981.
    \6\ 42 U.S.C. 1382c(a)(2); 20 CFR 416.982.
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B. What are the statutory definitions of disability for blind claimants 
and when do they apply?

    A claimant who seeks DI benefits under title II based on blindness 
must show that he or she meets the statutory definition of blindness as 
well as the statutory definition of disability during the period under 
consideration.\7\ A claimant who seeks SSI payments under title XVI 
based on blindness need only show that he or she meets the statutory 
definition of blindness during the period under consideration.\8\ Title 
II of the Act defines disability differently for those who are younger 
than age 55 and those who are age 55 or older.
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    \7\ 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A), (B); 20 CFR 404.1512(a), 404.1582, 
404.1583.
    \8\ 42 U.S.C. 1381a (``Every aged, blind, or disabled individual 
who is determined . . . to be eligible on the basis of his income 
and resources shall, in accordance with and subject to the 
provisions of this title, be paid benefits by the Commissioner of 
Social Security'') (emphasis added), 1382(a) (defining an eligible 
individual); 20 CFR 416.912 (providing that, in general, a claimant 
must prove to us that he or she is blind), 416.981 (defining 
blindness), 416.982 (explaining when we will consider an individual 
to be blind based on a State plan).
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1. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind 
claimant who is younger than 55?
    For claimants who meet the statutory definition of blindness during 
the period under consideration and are younger than age 55, the Act 
defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial 
gainful activity (SGA) \9\ by reason of any medically determinable 
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death 
or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period 
of not less than 12 months.\10\
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    \9\ 20 CFR 404.1510 (defining SGA as significant and productive 
physical or mental duties done (or intended) for pay or profit), 
404.1572 (providing further details about what we mean by SGA); see 
also 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(4)(A), 20 CFR 404.1584 (collectively 
describing how to calculate SGA for claimants who meet the statutory 
definition of blindness).
    \10\ 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A).
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2. What is the statutory definition of disability for a title II blind 
claimant who is age 55 or older?
    For claimants who meet the statutory definition of blindness during 
the period under consideration and are age 55 or older, the Act defines 
disability as the inability by reason of such blindness to engage in 
SGA requiring skills or abilities comparable to those of any gainful 
activity in which the claimant has previously engaged with some 
regularity and over a substantial period of time.\11\
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    \11\ Id. at (d)(1)(B).
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C. What are the non-medical requirements?

    A claimant is not entitled to DI benefits or eligible for SSI 
payments based on blindness unless he or she meets the applicable non-
medical requirements. The non-medical requirements--such as the insured 
status requirements under title II and the income and resource 
limitations under title XVI--vary based on the type(s) of claim(s) the 
claimant filed. To illustrate, we identify below the most common types 
of claims and some of the regulations that explain the non-medical 
requirements for that type of claim.
     DI Benefits: 20 CFR 404.315, 404.316, 404.320, 404.321;
     Disabled Widow(er)'s Benefits (DWB): 20 CFR 404.335, 
404.336;
     Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB): 20 CFR 404.350, 
404.351; and
     SSI: 20 CFR 416.202, 416.305.

II. What are some special considerations related to the EOD?

A. What if a claimant meets all the requirements for DI benefits or SSI 
payments based on blindness and based on another impairment?

    If a claimant meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI 
benefits or eligibility for SSI payments based on blindness, and also 
meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI benefits or 
eligibility for SSI payments based on another impairment, we will 
establish two EODs. One EOD will be for the first date the claimant 
meets all the requirements for entitlement to DI benefits or 
eligibility for SSI payments based on blindness, and the other will be 
for the first date the claimant meets all the requirements based on the 
other impairment. The EOD for the other impairment may be before or 
after the EOD for blindness.

B. What happens when a claimant applies for DI benefits under title II 
and meets the statutory definition of blindness, but continues to work?

    If a claimant applies for DI benefits under title II and meets the 
insured status requirements \12\ and the statutory definition of 
blindness, but continues to work (even at the SGA level), we may 
establish a period of disability for him or her. A period of disability 
must last for at least five consecutive, full calendar months.\13\ If 
we establish a period of disability, we ``freeze'' the claimant's 
earnings during that period and will not use them to compute cash 
benefits (unless it advantages the claimant) or to determine whether 
the claimant still has insured status.\14\ However, a period of 
disability, or disability freeze, does not automatically entitle the 
claimant to monthly cash benefits.\15\ To be entitled to monthly cash 
benefits, the claimant must still meet the statutory definitions of 
blindness and disability and the

[[Page 49623]]

applicable non-medical requirements during the period covered by his or 
her application.
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    \12\ 20 CFR 404.110 (describing how we determine fully insured 
status and explaining that an individual needs at least six quarters 
of coverage but not more than 40 quarters of coverage to be fully 
insured), 404.130(e) (explaining that a claimant is insured in a 
quarter for purposes of establishing a period of disability or 
becoming entitled to DI benefits if in that quarter the claimant 
meets the statutory definition of blindness and is fully insured).
    \13\ 20 CFR 404.320(a), (b)(4) (explaining that ``[a] period of 
disability is a continuous period of time during which you are 
disabled'' and that one of the requirements to be ``entitled to a 
period of disability . . . [is that a]t least 5 consecutive months 
go by from the month in which [the claimant's] period of disability 
begins and before the month in which it would end'').
    \14\ 42 U.S.C. 420; 20 CFR 404.1582.
    \15\ 20 CFR 404.1582.
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    For purposes of determining the EOD, if we find that the claimant 
meets the insured status requirements and the statutory definition of 
blindness, but he or she is performing SGA, we will establish up to two 
dates. First, we will establish a disability freeze date, which is the 
date the claimant first met the insured status requirements and the 
statutory definition of blindness. If the claimant later stops working 
or his or her work is no longer SGA, we will establish a second date 
called the ``adjusted blind onset date'' (ABOD). The ABOD is the date 
the claimant stopped performing SGA and became entitled to monthly cash 
benefits under title II of the Act, subject to a five-month waiting 
period.
    The five-month waiting period begins with the first full month that 
the claimant does not perform SGA. However, if the claimant is age 55 
or older and performing SGA, we consider how the claimant's work 
activity compares with work he or she did in the past.\16\ We consider 
work to be non-comparable if it requires skills and abilities that are 
less than or different from those the claimant used in the work he or 
she did in the past.\17\ If the claimant is age 55 or older and 
performing ``non-comparable'' SGA, we will count the months the 
claimant performs ``non-comparable'' SGA in the waiting period if they 
also fall within the period of disability.
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    \16\ 20 CFR 404.1584(c).
    \17\ Id.
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    We cannot establish a disability freeze for DWB or CDB claimants 
under title II of the Act. There is also no freeze equivalent for SSI 
claimants under title XVI of the Act. However, to be eligible for SSI 
payments based on disability under title XVI, a claimant need only meet 
the statutory definition of blindness and the applicable non-medical 
requirements. Thus, a claimant seeking SSI payments based on blindness 
need not show that he or she is unable to perform SGA, but if the 
claimant is working, we will consider his or her earnings under the 
income and resource rules of title XVI of the Act.\18\ When a 
claimant's income or resources exceed the Act's limitations, he or she 
is ineligible for SSI payments under title XVI because he or she does 
not meet the applicable non-medical requirements,\19\ even though the 
claimant meets our statutory definition of blindness.\20\
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    \18\ 20 CFR 416.983(b), 416.984.
    \19\ 20 CFR 416.202(c), (d) (explaining that to be eligible for 
SSI payments, a claimant may not have ``more income than is 
permitted'' or ``more resources than are permitted'').
    \20\ 20 CFR 416.984.
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III. When is this SSR applicable?

    This SSR is applicable on October 2, 2018. We will use this SSR 
beginning on its applicable date. We will apply this SSR to new 
applications filed on or after the applicable date of the SSR and to 
claims that are pending on and after the applicable date. This means 
that we will use this SSR on and after its applicable date in any case 
in which we make a determination or decision. We expect that Federal 
courts will review our final decisions using the rules that were in 
effect at the time we issued the decisions. If a court reverses our 
final decision and remands a case for further administrative 
proceedings after the applicable date of this SSR, we will apply this 
SSR to the entire period at issue in appropriate cases when we make a 
decision after the court's remand.
[FR Doc. 2018-21369 Filed 10-1-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4191-02-P