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Tennessee disability benefits

How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Tennessee

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
March 22, 2024  ·  1 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard-trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience and has helped over 50,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If you're a Tennessee resident unable to work due to an injury or illness, you might qualify for disability benefits. Federal disability programs are available to provide financial assistance and healthcare coverage to those in need. Approximately 250,000 Tennesseans receive Social Security disability benefits. 

We’ll walk through everything you need to know about disability benefits in Tennessee, from the eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Disability benefits in Tennessee

In Tennessee, individuals looking to apply for disability benefits primarily navigate through federal programs since the state doesn't offer a disability program. Disability benefits available to Tennessee residents include:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance: SSDI is a federal program that provides financial support to those who can no longer work due to a medical condition. SSDI benefits include monthly payments and Medicare coverage after a five-month waiting period.

  • Supplemental Security Income: SSI is for individuals with little income and resources, including those without a significant work history. SSI beneficiaries also qualify for Medicaid.

  • VA benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs manages the VA benefits program to compensate veterans for injuries or illnesses incurred during military service.

  • Private disability insurance: This can be an option for individuals with coverage through their employer or a personal policy, but only if it was purchased before becoming disabled. These policies typically offer a percentage of the salary if you cannot work due to a disability. 

  • Workers’ compensation: Workers’ comp is an insurance program to cover medical costs and wage replacement if you cannot work because of a work-related injury or illness.

Each program has unique features designed to support those who qualify based on their work history, income, resources, or military service. Navigating these options can be complex, but understanding what each offers is the first step toward receiving benefits.

The rest of this guide will focus on how to apply for Social Security disability programs.

How to apply for Social Security Disability in Tennessee

Applying for Social Security disability benefits takes time and effort. Follow these steps to begin the application process:

  • Gather documentation. You’ll need personal identification, medical records, employment history, and other documents that “prove” your disability to the Social Security Administration for the initial application.

  • Create an SSA account. To apply for benefits, you must create an account on SSA.gov

  • Consider working with a disability lawyer. A lawyer can help build your case, gather your medical records, and help you complete the paperwork. 

  • Fill out the application forms. The main application form will ask for your basic information.

How to submit your application

There are three ways you can submit your Social Security Disability application:

  1. Apply online: Utilize the SSA website to down the online application and submit electronically. 

  2. Apply via phone: Call the SSA at (800) 772-1213, and an SSA claims representative can talk you through the application and fill it out for you. 

  3. Apply in-person: Visit your local SSA office to apply. An SSA claims representative can provide specific instructions about the application. (Know they can't offer advice on how to frame your answers to benefit your case — that’s where a lawyer can be helpful.)

SSA offices in Tennessee

From Cookeville to Nashville, Johnson City to Knoxville, there are 28 SSA field offices in Tennessee. Search below for the location and phone number of the office nearest you: 


921 Congress Pkwy N

Athens, TN 37303

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 964-7431

Fax Number: (833) 597-0068


1290 Premier Dr Ste 140

Chattanooga, TN 37421

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 964-0029

Fax Number: (833) 597-0086


119 Center Pointe Dr

Clarksville, TN 37040

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 531-4695

Fax Number: (833) 597-0134


529 Inman St W

Cleveland, TN 37311

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (855) 207-4867

Fax Number: (833) 912-2284


1885 Shady Brook St

Columbia, TN 38401

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 876-3174

Fax Number: (833) 597-0124


1145 Perimeter Park Dr

Cookeville, TN 38501

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (888) 717-1528

Fax Number: (833) 597-0132


1070 Vendall Rd

Dyersburg, TN 38024

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 480-5002

Fax Number: (833) 597-0126


637 Commons Dr

Gallatin, TN 37066

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 964-7392

Fax Number: (833) 950-3791

Click here to see all the SSA offices in Tennessee

How much are Social Security benefits in Tennessee?

The maximum Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit for 2024 is $3,822 monthly, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offers a maximum of $943 monthly for individuals. On average, SSDI recipients in Tennessee receive $1,678 for SSDI, and the average SSI benefits are $599.

The payment amounts depend on your work history, earnings, and resources. To check the exact amount you’ll receive, create an account on SSA.gov.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to creating an SSA account. 

We've helped 3,524 Tennesseans apply for benefits.

Do I need a disability lawyer in Tennessee?

The SSA does not require disability applicants to have a lawyer, but it’s a good idea to have one. A disability lawyer in Tennessee can help you navigate every step of the application process and build your disability claim. Benefits of working with a lawyer include:

  • Paperwork assistance: There’s a lot of paperwork as part of the application. Lawyers can help you accurately complete and submit all necessary forms.

  • Communication: A lawyer can handle all correspondence with the SSA on your behalf, ensuring clarity and timeliness.

  • Increased success rate: Statistically, applicants with legal representation are three times more likely to win their benefits case.

  • Advocacy: A lawyer will advocate for your rights and interests throughout the application and appeals process.

Get help applying for disability benefits in Tennessee

Finding the right lawyer involves research and consultation to ensure they understand your needs and have a proven track record of success in disability cases. Atticus has done all the hard work of finding great disability lawyers.

Take our 2-minute quiz and connect with a client advocate to get free advice on your disability claim. If you'd like, we can introduce you to a lawyer who can help you navigate the application process, step by step.

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Tennessee

How do I qualify for disability in Tennessee?

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 Tennessee?

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 Tennessee?

It takes an average of 7 months to get an initial disability decision in Tennessee. 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 Tennessee?

The average SSDI payment in Tennessee is $1,678 per month. The average SSI payment is $599 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 Tennessee?

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 Tennessee have a state disability program?

No, Tennessee 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 Tennessee can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

See what you qualify for

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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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