About 6% of the Vermont population (22,767 people) receive disability benefits. If you have a serious condition that prevents you from working, you should be eligible.
While applying for disability can be a long, relatively complex process — getting approved can provide you with permanent healthcare and financial support.
Here’s how to qualify for, apply for, and ultimately win disability benefits — plus a glimpse at how much you might receive.
Vermont doesn’t have a state-wide disability program (only five states do!). But you can still apply for, and qualify for, private or national disability benefits.
Here are the programs people with disabilities most often qualify for:
1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI supports Americans who can no longer work due to a medical condition. As the name suggests, it’s run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You qualify if you’ve worked and paid taxes, and the amount you receive monthly depends largely on how much you’ve historically paid in.
Generally if you’ve worked for five of the last 10 years, you qualify for SSDI. And the more you’ve earned, the more you’ll make with SSDI.
2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you haven’t worked enough, or worked recently enough, to qualify for SSDI, you may qualify for SSI. It’s another federal program, and you use the same application to apply. SSI is only for individuals with very little income and very few assets.
3. Long-term and short-term private disability insurance: If you (or your employer) purchased disability insurance prior to you becoming disabled — you should be able to file a claim with the private insurer. Generally, these pay out a percentage of your former paychecks for a given number of months — but the exact amount will depend on the policy you purchased.
4. Veterans disability benefits: If you served in the military and suffered an injury that left you unable to work, or you’re retired but have a medical condition as a result of your service, you can apply for disability benefits through Veterans Affairs. For more information, visit the VA’s disability benefits website.
For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on SSDI and SSI. When people say they’re “going on disability” they generally mean these programs. They’re also the benefit option the most people qualify for.
It’s often necessary to apply for SSDI and SSI when trying to qualify for other programs (like most long-term disability plans). Or, they’re advantageous to apply for in conjunction with other programs (like VA benefits).
While being medically disabled is a requirement for SSDI and SSI — there are technical requirements (work and income) that are just as important. Here are the basic qualifications.
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must be under 67 years old. Also:
To qualify for SSI, you must:
More on qualifying for SSI here.
Any medical condition that prevents you from working for at least a year can qualify for disability.
Amongst these the most common conditions to qualify in Vermont were:
Amongst the mental disorders the most common conditions were:
If your condition falls into any of these categories and prevents you from being able to work, the SSA will likely award you disability benefits. If you have a particularly severe condition (stage 4 cancer, ALS), you may be on the compassionate allowance list — which automatically qualifies you for benefits, assuming you meet the work or income requirements.
You can apply for disability benefits with the help of a lawyer, or on your own. Most often, you’ll file the application, and be asked to submit some supplementary documentation on your work history, your day-to-day functioning, and the treatment you receive for your condition.
There are three ways to submit an application for disability benefits:
If you’re not applying with a lawyer, it’s generally helpful to apply at the SSA office. They won’t give you legal advice, but can advise you on how to answer the application questions accurately.
It takes most people hours to submit an application because of the documentation required. If you’re working with a lawyer, they can request your medical records and make sure you have everything you need to apply. If you’re applying on your own:
Again, your lawyer should fill out your application for you (the right way), and confirm receipt with the SSA. (If you’d like more advice on how to fill out the initial application, or how you can find the right lawyer — Atticus gives legal advice for free).
While some people have their application accepted at the initial decision stage, nearly 70% are rejected and have to file for reconsideration. About 91% of reconsiderations are also rejected, and applicants request a hearing with an administrative law judge.
At a hearing, about half of people win benefits — and your odds increase threefold if you work with a lawyer. We wrote at length about what to expect at a hearing and your chances of winning your appeal.
Given how frequently initial applications are denied, it can take several months to a year or more to start receiving benefits.
In 2021, to receive an initial decision took an average of 5.5 months (165 days), and the time to process your reconsideration was 4.9 months (147 days).
The time you wait for your hearing date depends on your SSA hearing office. The Manchester (New Hampshire) office schedules hearings for Vermont. The average wait time in Manchester — from requesting a hearing to attending one — is 7 months.
Adding up the above, it takes 1.45 years to get disability benefits in Vermont — plus any additional time you take to send in additional paperwork, file reconsideration, and request a hearing. Most applicants will take around two years to go from application to final decision.
Sending the SSA your documentation as soon as possible is the only way to speed up this process — so it’s important to meet deadlines, and get forms and medical records their way as fast as possible. Your lawyer can help you stay on track, and will call to confirm the SSA has all the information they need.
The average monthly benefit for SSDI recipients in Vermont is $1,202.96 per month according to the most recent SSA data. This was slightly less than the nationwide average. The maximum SSDI benefit in 2023 about $3,600.
Again, your SSDI amount is dependent on your work history. Luckily, you can figure out exactly what your monthly check would be by creating a SSA.gov account. To create an account:
The average monthly SSI payment in Vermont is $549.19 per month. The maximum you can receive for SSI is $914 per month in 2023. To determine your personal check amount, the SSA will subtract any other regular monthly income from this amount. So you’ll either earn $914, or $914 minus the value of your other income sources (stocks and investments, SNAP benefits, part-time work, etc.).
When you’re applying, disability attorneys can save you from critical application missteps and save you weeks of paperwork. At the hearing stage, they’ll cross examine witnesses from the state and help you make the best possible case before a judge. Overall, applicants with a lawyer on their side are three times more likely to win benefits than those without.
If you’re looking for a Vermont disability lawyer on your own, consider these key criteria before hiring:
It can be challenging to suss out great lawyers from mediocre lawyers without a legal background. If you’d like to be matched with a lawyer who’s a great fit for your claim, Atticus can help (for free).
We’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers and have built a network of legal teams (chosen from the top 5% of firms). We trust them to treat our clients well, and to win their cases. If you want our help evaluating the right disability lawyer for you, sign up here.
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