Social Security Disability Insurance in the State of Tennessee
While we can thank Tennessee for the rich contribution it has made to American music, the health of its residents is a cause of concern. Tennessee ranks 43rd on the American Foundation’s list of state health rankings. One of the major health concerns in this state is the high prevalence of smoking. Smoking can adversely affect almost every organ in the body but the respiratory and circulatory systems are often the hardest hit. These two diagnostics account for 11.8% on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits list. Topping the SSDI beneficiary list are those with mental disorders (30.9%) and those with diseases related to musculoskeletal and connective tissue (30.3%).
If you suffer from a disability in Tennessee that prevents you from working for at least one year, you too, can be eligible to receive SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has defined certain eligibility criteria that includes having earned enough work credits in the Social Security program. Your disability should also meet or be equivalent in severity to a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book.
In Tennessee, only about 24.3% of claimants are awarded SSDI benefits in the initial application stage. This is lower than the national average of around 30%, but this fact should not discourage you from filing a claim. As you read the information below, you’ll find ways to increase your chances of winning an SSDI claim.
Filing a Social Security Disability Insurance Claim in Tennessee
About 15.5% of residents in Tennessee suffer from a disability. If you believe you are eligible for SSDI benefits, you can apply online, by phone, or in person at a Social Security office near you. In the state of Tennessee there are 26 Social Security offices. Your application for a claim will be assigned to a Social Security Disability examiner who works for a state agency called the Disability Determination Services. The examiner will rely heavily on the medical evidence you provide so be as detailed and accurate as you can when making your claim because this is more likely to facilitate a faster process. The disability examiner will call for an in-person interview. If your disability prevents you from coming in person, a video or phone interview can be arranged.
If you don’t meet an exact listing in the Blue Book, the disability examiner will begin looking at medical evidence that would allow you to receive a medical vocational allowance based on your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your RFC is determined on your functional limitations, age, education, and the transferability of your work skills. If you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of these factors, you will be approved to receive a medical vocational allowance.
It is important to provide the SSA with detailed information about your work history (past 15 years), medications you take, medical tests you have taken, treatment sources, and details of your disability in order to establish the onset date of your disability. Providing the information that the SSA is looking for can make the difference between getting approved or getting denied.
Click on the link to read more about the SSDI application process or watch the informative video below.
Only about 24% of SSDI claims are awarded benefits at the initial application level in Tennessee. Don’t give up on your claim just because you are denied. The majority have a much better chance of getting approved at the appeals level. The process of appeals consists of 4 stages.
- Reconsideration: Another disability examiner will review your case to see if any evidence that could refute the denial has been overlooked. Since the process followed is almost the same as the initial application process, the rate of approval at the Reconsideration level approval rates are slim (only 8.5%). For the 91.5% of claimants who are denied benefits at this stage, cheer up! The chances of approval are much higher at the next stage of the appeals process.
- The Court Hearing: Your chances of getting approved here are the best because your case will be presented before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who may call in medical and vocational experts to help further evaluate your case. A judge may give considerable weightage to the witness of your physician. In Tennessee, the approval rate at the disability hearing level is 60.1%, which is higher than the national average of 59%.
- The Appeals Council: This Council will review your case to make sure the ALJ who presided over your hearing was fair. If a discrepancy is found, the Council may reverse the ALJ’s decision or send it back to another ALJ. If, however, the Council agrees with the denial decision of the ALJ, you will need to move to the next stage in the appeals process.
- Federal Review: The last and final recourse of appeal is the federal court. The chances of winning a claim here are fairly slim but if you have a solid case that you feel was unfairly judged by the SSA, you may appeal to the Federal Court.
You must make sure that an appeal is filed within 60 days of the date of the denial notice. If you miss this date you will have to re-start the SSDI claims process. Your chances for approval are greatly multiplied if you have an advocate or a non-attorney specialized in the SSDI claims process to represent your case. These non-attorneys have unique insight into the SSDI claims process as many of them have worked as disability examiners. They can help you understand why you were denied, build and strengthen your case for a winning chance. These specialized representatives are familiar with the entire SSDI claims process and can use their experience to your advantage.
If you have a disability that is likely to last a year, don’t wait to apply for SSDI benefits. You are advised to begin your application process immediately to establish an early onset date that would give you the maximum in SSDI back pay.
Fill out our free disability evaluation form on the right today! We want to help you get the benefits you deserve.
Helpful Resources for those with Disabilities in Tennessee
If you’re not qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance or would like additional support, the Tennessee State Administration offers several other programs to help people with different disabilities. Follow the links below to know more about these helpful programs:
- Department of Intellectual and Development Disabilities: This program provides assistance for those with intellectual disabilities and their families. This includes day and respite care, specialized equipment, specialized nutrition, transport and more.
- Vocational Rehabilitation: This program assists those who are disabled prepare for and find quality employment.
- Tennessee Health and Disability Programs: This program includes caregiving support, home and community-based services for those with disabilities.
- The Tennessee Food Stamp Program: This federal program may help seniors, low-income workers, those who are disabled, and others put nutritious food on the table. Benefits are given every month through an electronic benefits card which can be used at authorized local food stores.