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Vermont Disability Benefits 2023: Programs, Qualifications, and How to Apply

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
August 29, 2022  ·  6 min read
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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.

What disability programs are there in Vermont?

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 the Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about how to apply for veterans disability benefits.

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).  

Qualifying for disability in Vermont

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.

SSDI qualifications in Vermont

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must be under 67 years old. Also:

  • Have a disability that will last longer than one year or potentially lead to death. You cannot get SSDI benefits if you have a partial or short-term disability. 
  • Meet the requirements for “work credits” for your age. You can check your work credits by making an account at SSA.gov — but most people qualify if they’ve worked five out of the last 10 years. 

More on eligibility here.

SSI qualifications in Vermont

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  • Have a disability that will last longer than one year or potentially lead to death. 
  • Having very little in terms of assets like personal or retirement savings (less than $2000, or less than $3000 if you are married).
  • Have very little or no income from any source (generally less than 1,000 per month)

More on qualifying for SSI here. 

What medical conditions qualify you for disability in Vermont?

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:

  • Mental disorders: 48.6%
  • Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 24.1%
  • Diseases of the nervous system: 9.3%
  • Diseases of the circulatory system: 3.3%
  • Injuries 2.8%
  • Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.5%
  • Neoplasms: 2.2%
  • Unknown: 2.1%
  • Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 1.5%
  • Diseases of the digestive system: 1.2%
  • Congenital Abnormalities: .6%
  • Diseases of the Genito-urinary system: .5%
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: .5%
  • Other: .3%
  • Diseases of the blood and blood forming organs .2%
  • Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue:  .2%

Amongst the mental disorders the most common conditions were:

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders (3,965 people)
  • Intellectual disorders (2,065 people)
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (1,142 people)

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.

How to apply for disability in Vermont

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. 

How do I submit an application? 

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. 

How should I prepare my application?

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:

  • Gather your records. This includes medical records, contact information for doctors, work history, education records, bank account information, and other documents you will need to include with your application. 
  • Fill out and submit the application and include supplemental documents and forms. When filling out the forms, be very clear and specific about your limitations and pain level while remaining realistic. It’s also critical to make sure that you’re consistent with your answers between forms, as they often ask similar questions. 
  • Follow-up with SSA right after you submit. Sometimes applications get lost, and the SSA has a lot of claims to get through. You’ll want to confirm they have received and are processing your application. 
  • Respond to any requests from SSA immediately. They may ask for supplemental information or request that you see a SSA doctor. You will typically have 10 days to submit documentation. 

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). 

What comes next?

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.

How long does it take to get disability benefits in Vermont? 

Given how frequently initial applications are denied, it can take several months to a year or more to start receiving benefits.

In 2022, to receive an initial decision took an average of 6.1 months (184 days), and the time to process your reconsideration was 6.1 months (183 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 1.6 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.

How does disability pay in Vermont?

Average disability (SSDI) amount in Vermont

The average monthly benefit for SSDI recipients in Vermont is $1,279.63 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: 

  • Visit SSA.gov
  • Click “mySocialSecurity”
  • Create an account using your Social Security number
  • Scroll down to the section titled “Disability”

Average SSI amount in Vermont

The average monthly SSI payment in Vermont is ​​$619.75 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.).

How to find a good disability lawyer in Vermont

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:

  • Their primary area of practice: Confirm that they only take, or primarily take disability cases — so you know they’ll understand, and prioritize, your case.
  • Reviews: Make sure you really read the content of the reviews. A few bad reviews here and there shouldn’t be cause for alarm — but keep an eye out for patterns. If  you’re reading the same points over and over again, like “never calls me back” or “doesn’t show up at hearing” — this might not be a lawyer you can trust.
  • Location: Having a local lawyer could be good since they can know the local judges, and you yourself can get to know the lawyer personally. If you find a great fit that works nationally — see if they have a history of taking cases in your region.
  • Time practicing: You want to look for lawyers that have been working for a long time as there’s a higher chance of them already working on cases similar to yours. New lawyers can be good too, but they’re harder to vet without a legal background.

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.

Ready to get benefits today?

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Vermont

How do I qualify for disability in Vermont?

To qualify for disability you need to have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year. You’ll also need to meet certain work history requirements (for SSDI) or be within certain income limits (for SSI). For more on these requirements, read our full write up here.

What conditions qualify for disability in Vermont?

Any condition that will prevent you from working for a year or more can qualify for disability benefits. Some of the most common conditions include musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, nervous system diseases, and circulatory system diseases. See our full list of conditions that qualify here.

How long does it take to get approved for disability in Vermont?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Vermont. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes around two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in Vermont?

The average SSDI payment in Vermont is $1,279.63 per month. The average SSI payment is $619.75 per month. What you’ll earn is dependent on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.

How should I prepare my disability application in Vermont?

Answer the application questions truthfully, consistently, and succinctly. You should also ensure that you gather and submit all your medical records with your application. The SSA paperwork can be complicated, so our legal team has written a full guide to the application here.

Does Vermont have a state disability program?

No, Vermont doesn't have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Vermont can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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