Virtually all employees in Vermont are eligible for workers’ comp. Depending on the nature of your injury, benefits may include medical coverage, disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. Temporary benefits are paid while you’re recovering; permanent benefits are paid when you’ve fully healed or reached a plateau in your medical treatment. (To receive these benefits, your injury must be work-related.)
If you are off work on doctor’s orders, you’ll receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Generally, your average weekly wage is your gross weekly earnings before the accident, plus $10 per week for each dependent under the age of 21.
On July 1 of every year, the Vermont Department of Labor publishes maximum and minimum weekly benefit amounts. For the first half of 2018, the maximum weekly TTD rate is $1,281 and the minimum is $427. You must be off work for more than three days (not necessarily consecutive) to be eligible for TTD benefits.
While you are still recovering, your doctor might release you to work with restrictions. For example, you might only be able to work part time or you might have limits on lifting or standing at work.
If you’re earning less on the job than you did before your injury, you’ll receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. TPD benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury earnings. For example, suppose you earned $800 per week before your injury and you now earn only $500 after your injury. Your TPD rate would be $200 ($800 - $500 = $300; two-thirds of $300 = $200).
After you’ve either fully healed or reached your medical end result (MER) (meaning your condition won’t improve any further), you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. A doctor will examine you to determine the extent of your disability and assign a percentage to the impairment (called an impairment rating). Unless your permanent disability is totally disabling (see below), you will be eligible for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits.
Your PPD rate is the same as your TTD rate: two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the state’s maximum and minimum benefit. The number of weeks that you get paid depends on the percentage of your impairment. For spinal injuries, your impairment rating is multiplied by 550 weeks. For all other injuries, your impairment rating is multiplied by 405 weeks.
Example: Linda hurt her back and received a 10% impairment rating from her doctor. She will receive PPD benefits for 55 weeks (10% of 550). If Linda hurt her shoulder instead and received the same impairment rating, she would be paid for 40.5 weeks (10% of 405).
Permanent impairments to multiple body parts are calculated separately and then added together. For example, if Linda hurt her back and her shoulder in the same injury and received a 10% impairment for each, she would get paid for 95.5 weeks at her PPD rate (55 weeks + 40.5 weeks).
Some work injuries are more serious than others. If you’ve reached your medical end result (MER) and can’t work in any capacity due to your work injury, you will be eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. Your PTD rate is two-thirds of your weekly wage, subject to the same maximum and minimum rates mentioned above. Some injuries, such as the loss of sight in both eyes, automatically qualify as permanent and total disabilities. Other injuries are decided on a case-by-case basis.
You will receive benefits for a minimum of 330 weeks (over six years). If you are still permanently and totally disabled at this point, you can continue to receive benefits. However, the insurance company may submit evidence that you are able to find gainful employment and that your PTD benefits should end.
In addition to disability benefits, Vermont workers’ compensation provides the following:
Many injured workers are hesitant to file workers’ comp claims for fear of negative job consequences or creating bad feelings in the workplace. It’s important to understand that workers’ compensation is a system of benefits owed to an injured worker by law and that it's illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for seeking benefits. Once you are injured, it’s best to focus on getting quality medical care and educating yourself on the claims process. To learn more, read our article on Filing a Worker’s Compensation Claim.