Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security disability benefits either:

  1. Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability; or
  2. Through your local Social Security Office. To locate the office nearest you, call 1-800-772-1213 toll free or go to the Social Security Office Locator, and enter your five-digit zip code.

Before you apply, you should read one of the Disability Starter Kits developed by Social Security.


The Application Process

  1. Once you've applied, Social Security staff will review your application with you to make sure it is complete. This can be done by phone or face-to-face.
  2. If Social Security determines that you meet the work and/or income-related requirements, they will forward your application to DDS so we can determine whether you meet the medical requirements. 

How DDS Determines Disability

  1. A trained disability examiner will review your form and write to your medical sources to obtain evidence.'The examine will not ask your medical sources whether you are disabled. That determination will be made by a DDS Team, including a disability examiner and medical consultant. Rather, the examiner will ask your medical sources about the illnesses, injuries or conditions that limit your activities and ability to work; what medical examinations and tests have shown; and the treatment that's been provided.
  1. The team will likely get enough evidence from your medical sources to make a decision. However, if more evidence is needed, a special exam will be arranged and paid for by DDS. Transportation to and from the exam might also be paid for by DDS.

If you do not have transportation to the special exam, dial 2-1-1 (from anywhere in Vermont) and request a list of the medical transportation options in your community. You can also search the Vermont 2-1-1 website.

  1. After all the needed evidence is obtained, the examiner and medical consultant will:
  1. Consider the facts in your case (e.g., the severity of your condition, when it began, how long it has lasted, and how it affects your ability to work along with other factors such as your age, education, and work experience); and
  2. Follow a step-by-step procedure that includes the following five questions:
  • Are you working? If you are and your earnings average more than $1090 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
  • Is your condition "severe"? Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.
  • Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? SSA maintains a list of impairments for each of the major body systems that are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, we have to decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is, your claim is approved. If it is not, we go to the next step
  • Can you do the work you did previously? We must determine whether your impairment interferes with your ability to do the work you've done in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, your claim will be considered further.
  • Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you've done in the last 15 years, we then look to see if you can do any other type of work. We consider your age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills, and we review the job demands of occupations as determined by the Department of Labor. If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim will be approved. If you can, your claim will be denied.
  1. It usually takes several months for DDS to make a decision; however, this time frame varies depending on how quickly your medical sources respond to requests for records and the need for special exams.
  2. Once DDS has made a determination, Social Security will send you a letter informing you of the decision.
  • If your claim is approved, you'll get a notice showing the amount of your benefit and when payments will begin.
  • If the claim is denied, the notice will explain the denial.

How to Appeal a Determination

If you disagree with the determination, you must request that your case be reconsidered within 60 days from the day you receive the letter informing you of the decision. You will be asked to fill out some more forms—about any changes in your condition and any new medical treatment.

Some of the reasons to request reconsideration are:

  1. The condition is more severe than determined;
  2. The condition has lasted longer than expected;
  3. The condition has worsened since the decision;
  4. The condition became disabling earlier than determined; and
  5. Another condition developed that complicates the first condition.  

Here's how to request an appeal:

  1. If your application was recently denied for medical reasons, you may request an appeal on the Social Security Administration's Internet Appeal website. There are two parts to the Internet Appeal process: a) an Appeal Request Internet form, and b) an Appeal Disability Report that provides more information about your condition. 
     
  2. If you do not want to request an appeal via the Internet or if your application was recently denied for non-medical reasons, you may:
  • Contact your local Social Security Office and tell the representative that you want to appeal the decision made on your case.
  • Call SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. Explain that you don't want to use the online appeal process but do want to appeal the decision made in your case. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM.
  • Call the toll-free TTY number if you are deaf or hard of hearing:1-800-325-0778.

The reconsideration case is returned to Disability Determination Services where it is handled by a different examiner and medical consultant. Evidence from the original decision and any new evidence is considered. Once again medical evidence is obtained, and an independent decision is made.