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Tennessee disability benefits

Tennessee Disability Benefits: How to Apply and How Much You'll Receive

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
December 13, 2022  ·  7 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 have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

Over 250,000 people in Tennessee receive Social Security disability benefits. And if you’re struggling to work due to a medical condition — you should also qualify. 

This guide will help you understand how Social Security Disability benefits work in Tennessee and what steps you should take to give yourself the best chance of being approved.

We've helped 3,524 people in Tennessee apply for benefits.

What disability programs are there in Tennessee? 

Tennessee does not have its own statewide disability program. The way that you apply for disability in Tennessee is through federal programs or private disability benefits. 

Below are the four most common disability benefits programs.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI provides benefits to Americans who have worked in previous years but cannot work anymore due to a severe medical condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers SSDI benefits. With SSDI, the longer you’ve worked and paid taxes, larger your benefit checks will be.

  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is an option if you haven’t worked recently or for very long. Like SSDI, SSI is a federal program administered through the SSA and uses the same application.SSI may be your best bet if you have limited income and assets.

  3. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Some employers offer disability insurance that you can elect before getting injured or ill and pay for directly out of your paychecks.With this type of policy, you file a claim directly with your employer’s private insurance provider. Depending on your policy, you’ll receive a portion of your paycheck for a period of time. Your employer’s HR or benefits department will be able to help you understand your eligibility.

  4. Veterans disability benefits: If you’re a US military veteran but unable to work due to your injury or illness, you are eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Retired veterans whose service in the military resulted in a medical condition can also apply. Learn more about how to apply for veterans disability benefits.

This remainder of this guide will cover only SSDI and SSI, as they’re the most common type of disability benefits for Tennesseans. Even if you qualify for private disability or veterans disability benefits, you may still need to apply for SSDI or SSI — some private insurance programs even require it. 


Qualifying for disability in Tennessee

Qualifying for SSDI or SSI comes with both medical and non-medical eligibility requirements. The medical requirements are the same for both SSDI and SSI, but each program has different work and income requirements.

Medical conditions that qualify for disability in Tennessee

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to work for at least a year, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

SSA released the most common conditions to qualify for disability benefits in Tennessee (as a percentage of benefits recipients), and they are as follows:

The SSA considers mental health conditions when granting disability. A few of the most common mental health disorders people qualified for benefits for were:

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 28,653 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 20,909 people

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 8,518 people

Learn more about the medical conditions that qualify for disability benefits, or read our guide on all the conditions that may qualify

Non-medical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Be under 67 years old.

  • Meet work credit requirements. These are based on age and can be determined through your SSA.gov account. In most cases, people qualify if they have worked five out of the last 10 years.

Learn more about SSDI eligibility.

Non-medical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must: 

  • Have personal or retirement savings assets less than $2,000 for single applicants and $3,000 for married individuals.

  • Have little to no personal income, typically less than $1,000 per month.

Learn more about SSI eligibility.


How to apply for disability in Tennessee

You will need to fill out multiple forms to apply for disability. The first is the main application form with all of your background and basic information. Then there are supplementary forms where you fill out your employment history, daily physical limitations, and any medical treatment you receive for your condition. You can fill out these forms on your own, though most people who win disability benefits get legal help from a disability lawyer.

How to submit an application

There are three ways to file your disability benefits application: 

  1. Apply online through the SSA website

  2. Apply over the phone by calling (800) 772-1213 

  3. Apply in person at your local SSA office

If you decide not to work with a lawyer, applying in person may increase your chances of receiving benefits. The SSA employees won’t be able to counsel you on how to answer questions in your favor, but they can advise you on how to fill out the forms accurately and completely. 

How should I prepare my application? 

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your disability benefits application. People often say the paperwork takes longer than they thought, because so many pieces are involved. 

If your condition is complex, you likely have multiple doctors and records to gather. If you work with a lawyer, they will often collect these for you and keep track of everything so that nothing falls through the cracks.

If you choose to apply on your own, here are some steps you’ll need to take to prepare and submit your application:

  • Organize your documents and records. Make sure to get current medical and education records, employment history, bank statements, doctors’ notes, medical bills, and any other relevant documents together before submitting your application. 

  • Submit the application with your supporting forms and records. Remember to use consistent language to describe your limitations that your medical records can prove. A judge will compare your notes against your providers’ notes to ensure accuracy. Be mindful that some of the questions seem to ask different questions but are trying to gauge the same thing.

  • Follow up with the SSA soon after you submit. Because you are one of hundreds of thousands of disability benefits applicants, the SSA has a lot to keep track of, and they do miss things. Reach out to them in the days following your application submission to ensure they’ve received it and have started processing.

  • Respond to any requests from SSA immediately. You have a very short window to respond to the SSA after they request information or documentation from you — only 10 days. Make sure to respond immediately to increase your chances of receiving benefits.

A disability lawyer handles these steps and acts on your behalf to ensure that everything is tracked and followed up on immediately. 

Atticus provides free legal advice and can match you with a lawyer if you choose to use one. Take our 2-minute disability quiz to see if you qualify.

What happens after I apply?

While you may receive benefits after your initial application, it is rare. Only about 30% of applications are accepted on the first round of submission. Most people have to file for reconsideration. Even then, some 90% of applications are rejected again. At that point, you would need to go in front of a judge to review your case during a hearing.

The good news is that half of the people who go to hearing are approved for benefits. And that number goes up even further when you have legal representation from a disability lawyer. 

If your case goes to a hearing, there is some work to do to prepare to give yourself the best chance of winning. Here’s what to expect at a disability hearing and how to set yourself up for success.


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

If your application is accepted, it takes 5-6 months to get disability benefits in Tennessee. If your application is initially rejected, it takes an average of ~22 months, or just under 2 years.

(Luckily, the SSA reimburse you for the time you spent waiting, and should have been receiving benefits — this is called back pay. More on back pay here).

Here's how the wait times breakdown:

In 2022, applicants received an initial decision, on average, in 6.1 months. If they were rejected, and applied for reconsideration, it took another 6.1 months to receive that decision.

After that, the average wait time for a hearing in Tennessee is 11.6 months. Depending on which office handles your hearing, this number could be higher or lower. 

Here are the average wait times, by hearing office, in Tennessee.

Hearing office

Wait time for a hearing

Chattanooga

9 months

Franklin TN

12 months

Kingsport

13 months

Knoxville

11 months

Memphis

13.5 months

Nashville

11 months

You can speed up the process only by sending the requested documentation to the SSA as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help ensure you meet deadlines and respond to the SSA with all the necessary information.


How much are disability benefits in Tennessee?

The amount of disability depends on which type of benefits you receive. Below are the averages for Tennessee.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

Average
monthly check

$1,489

Average SSDI payments in Tennessee

According to the most recent SSA data, the average monthly SSDI benefit Tennessee disabled workers receive is $1,325.22 — about $30 lower than the national average. However, your exact SSDI benefit check depends on your work history, and the maximum monthly SSDI payment is about $3,822 in 2024.

To learn what your potential SSDI payout will be, visit SSA.gov and create an account using the following steps:

  • Visit SSA.gov

  • Scroll down to “learn about my account” next to “mySocialSecurity”

  • Create an account using your Social Security number (SSN). This takes a few steps and authentication.

  • Scroll down to the section titled “Disability”

Average SSI payments in Tennessee

The average monthly SSI payment in Tennessee is $615.88.

In 2024, the maximum disability anyone can receive from SSI is $943 per month, regardless of the state in which you live. SSA uses your monthly income to determine the amount of your SSI benefits.


How to find the right disability lawyer in Tennessee

While it’s not required, working with a disability lawyer can save you a lot of stress and help speed up your SSI and SSDI filings and determinations. They help from start to finish — from preparing your application to preparing and representing you for a hearing. 

Your chances of winning disability benefits are three times higher when you have legal representation.

When searching for a Tennessee disability lawyer, consider asking them these questions before choosing one. 

We know that choosing a lawyer from the pool of them that exists can be daunting. If you need some help, we can match you with a lawyer who is a good fit for your specific claim — free of charge.

We carefully vet our disability lawyers from an extensive professional legal network and trust them to treat your case with care. Take the first step by filling out our disability quiz.

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

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 6.1 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 $1,325.22 per month. The average SSI payment is $615.88 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.


SSA Offices in Tennessee

Athens

921 Congress Pkwy N 

Athens, TN 37303

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

Phone Number: (866) 964-7431

Fax Number: (833) 597-0068

Chattanooga

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

Clarksville

119 Center Pointe Dr 

Clarksville, TN 37040

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

Phone Number: (877) 531-4695

Fax Number: (833) 597-0134

Cleveland

529 Inman St W 

Cleveland, TN 37311

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

Phone Number: (855) 207-4867

Fax Number: (833) 912-2284

Columbia

1885 Shady Brook St

Columbia, TN 38401

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

Phone Number: (877) 876-3174

Fax Number: (833) 597-0124

Jacksboro

140 Sharp And Perkins Rd 

Jacksboro, TN 37757

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

Phone Number: (866) 964-7324

Fax Number: (833) 912-2282

Jackson

415 Cheyenne Dr

Jackson, TN 38305

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

Phone Number: (888) 383-1593

Fax Number: (833) 597-0128

Johnson City

818 Sunset Dr Ste 203

Johnson City, TN 37604

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

Phone Number: (866) 964-5059

Fax Number: (833) 597-0130

Kingsport

2401 South Wilcox Dr 

Kingsport, TN 37660

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

Phone Number: (888) 487-0161

Fax Number: (833) 905-2064

Knoxville

9031 Cross Park Dr

Knoxville, TN 37923

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

Phone Number: (866) 331-9091

Fax Number: (833) 597-0084

Lawrenceburg

109 E Taylor St 

Lawrenceburg, TN 38464

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

Phone Number: (877) 405-5866

Fax Number: (833) 950-2830

Madison

140 Cude Lane 

Madison, TN 37115

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

Phone Number: (866) 964-6302

Fax Number: (833) 950-3769

Mcminnville

900 Sparta St 

Mcminnville, TN 37110

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

Phone Number: (877) 616-2515

Fax Number: (833) 950-3133

Memphis

1330 Monroe Ave 

Memphis, TN 38104

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

Phone Number: (866) 336-2212

Fax Number: (833) 597-0082

Memphis

3461 South Third St 

Memphis, TN 38109

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

Phone Number: (855) 782-9155

Fax Number: (833) 950-3789

Memphis

3602 Austin Peay Hwy 

Memphis, TN 38128

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

Phone Number: (855) 420-8557

Fax Number: (833) 597-0060

Paris

186 Commerce St 

Paris, TN 38242

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

Phone Number: (866) 698-2507

Fax Number: (833) 912-2286

Selmer

661 Mulberry Ave 

Selmer, TN 38375

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

Phone Number: (888) 397-4814

Fax Number: (833) 597-0076

Tullahoma

717 Kings Lane

Tullahoma, TN 37388

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

Phone Number: (866) 635-0647

Fax Number: (833) 905-2060

Union City

1800 Old Troy Rd 

Union City, TN 38261

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

Phone Number: (877) 401-5904

Fax Number: (833) 950-2824

Morristown

3112 Millers Point Dr 

Morristown, TN 37813

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

Phone Number: (866) 875-6156

Fax Number: (833) 905-2058

Murfreesboro

2836 Saint Patrick Ct 

Murfreesboro, TN 37128

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

Phone Number: (866) 593-3112

Fax Number: (833) 905-2062

Nashville

120 Athens Way 

Nashville, TN 37228

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

Phone Number: (877) 808-5461

Fax Number: (833) 597-0080

Oak Ridge

565 Oak Ridge Tpke 

Oak Ridge, TN 37830

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

Phone Number: (888) 676-2954

Fax Number: (833) 950-2812


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Related resources:

What Conditions Qualify for Disability?

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

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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