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How Do You Qualify for Disability in Tennessee?

After receiving a diagnosis involving a disability or debilitating health condition, you likely aren't able to work any longer or at the capacity you previously could. How will you support your family? How will you afford medical care? Are there any programs out there to help you financially? These are genuine questions that you need answers to as soon as possible.

Fortunately, state and federal programs are available that can help you fill some of the income gaps you're experiencing. But, the biggest concern you face when applying for this support is finding out what qualifies you for disability in Tennessee. 

Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits in Tennessee?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a process made up of five steps to decide if your SSD application should get approved.

Below are these steps and the criteria that go with them: 

Can You Work? 

If you can still earn a specific amount of income or can work, you may not qualify for benefits. Each type of disability has a particular capacity threshold that the SSA will consider ineligible. If you don't exceed that limit, it will take more serious consideration of your medical issue and your need for benefits. 

Is Your Disability or Condition Severe? 

This may seem like an obvious question, but the SSA has strict standards for determining the level of disability someone is experiencing. For example, if you can't perform the most basic functions at your job for a year or more, you might qualify for SSD. 

Does the SSA Recognize Your Disabling Condition?

This is perhaps one of the most complex aspects of the entire disability benefits process. Not every disabling condition is listed in the SSA blue book, a compendium of medical issues and illnesses it considers for SSD benefits. 

Below are just several of the thousands of debilitating health categories you may have that qualifies for disability in Tennessee:

  • Mental disorders
  • Musculoskeletal system problems
  • Skin disorders
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Immune system disorders
  • Digestive tract problems
  • Impairments that affect multiple body systems
  • Senses and speech issues
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Neurological disorders
  • Genitourinary impairments
  • Hematological disorders
  • Malignant neoplastic diseases

You may be wondering what happens if you have a condition that isn't covered under this list. In such cases, you will need to show how your impairment is as severe as a similar medical problem or injury they do provide benefits for. Typically, they will also look at your ability to work and how your disability impacts your capacity to perform job functions.

What Is Your Work Capacity? 

Another significant factor that will impact the SSA's decision to allow you to receive social security disability benefits is your ability to work as you did before getting hurt or debilitated. If it can be established that you cannot resume your previous capacity, this still doesn't mean you'll get approved. Instead, the agency will further look into what work tasks you can and cannot perform. 

Can You Perform a Different Job? 

The Social Security Administration reviews more than just your age, the condition you're suffering from, and the kind of treatment you are receiving. It also considers the work skills you have and your ability to work in a different capacity. If you can perform other work, you may not qualify for SSD benefits in Tennessee.

To decide about your capacity to perform a different job, you will likely be asked to undergo work eligibility testing. 

Work Credit Requirements for SSD

The SSA will review if they have earned enough work credits to qualify for benefits for many applicants. This is done by converting your earnings into these credits. When you work for a year, you typically receive four credits, depending on how much social security taxes you paid on your income during that period. 

Currently, you have to have at least 20 credits to meet SSD eligibility requirements, though there are exceptions.

Death Benefits Through Social Security

When a parent passes away, their minor children will suffer financial loss by their absence. The SSA recognizes this reality, and some children may qualify for death benefits, if:

  • They are unmarried
  • Under the age of 18
  • Are 18-19 years old but attending school full-time
  • Are over 18 years of age have suffered from significant disabilities that developed before turning 22 

Supplemental Security Income for Disabled Children in TN

Also known as SSI, Supplemental Security Income was designed to assist low-income families taking care of severely disabled children. These benefits are not based upon a parent's work capacity and will continue throughout the period that the child remains disabled, including adulthood.

Your disabled child might qualify for SSI under the following circumstances: 

  • Their physical or mental disabilities have severely limited their functional ability
  • Their condition has lasted for at least a year
  • Their medical issue will likely result in their death
  • They are unable to be gainfully employed

Why You Need a Social Security Disability Attorney 

The majority of first-time applicants get denied when first applying for SSD benefits. This is due primarily to the SSA being overwhelmed and unable to meet the strain on the system. Unfortunately, the most minor mistakes can lead to an immediate denial and require you to navigate the complex appeals process because of this growing pressure. 

The process of applying and appealing your claim is more than tedious. It's frustrating and can leave you feeling hopeless if you're unfamiliar with the laws governing the SSA process. Knowing what qualifies you for disability benefits in Tennessee is just the first step in a complicated process. But, with a reputable disability attorney by your side to help you through the process, you can greatly increase your chances of eventual success.

Morgan & Morgan has the experienced attorneys you need to help gather the evidence and other necessary documentation to get your claim approved. When you hire us to assist you in the application process, we help you every step of the way.


From gathering documentation to obtaining other required information to bolster your claim, a skilled attorney knows the agencies to contact to get it. We understand what is necessary to prove your claim and get you approved, from military records and medication history to previous IRS records and bank account information.

Because the paperwork for SSD benefits in TN can be extensive, we are highly trained in satisfying these requirements. This means your claims process experience won't experience unnecessary delays because of incomplete information being submitted. 


At Morgan & Morgan, we understand that many applicants work and care for their families and may not have the time needed to deal with the SSA as it reviews their claims. A quality disability benefits attorney will not only keep track of your claim's status, but they will regularly communicate with you when new information is needed and speak with the SSA representatives on your behalf to get your questions answered. 

Finalizing a Claim

Even if you get approval for your disability claim, you still need a knowledgeable attorney to review the SSA's findings and calculations to ensure they are correct. You don't want to miss out on important additional benefits because an error was made on their part. If any issues are found, you need a lawyer who isn't afraid to directly address these mistakes and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Appeal of Denials

This is probably one of the most essential benefits of having a disability attorney on your side during the claim process. More often than not, applicants get initially denied. Filing an appeal is challenging because of the deadlines that can't be missed and how these procedures are conducted. One mistake can cost you years of lost benefits, making it crucial to work with a legal professional.

What to Do if You Receive an SSD Denial

If you have the frustrating experience of receiving a social security benefits denial letter or weren't compensated fairly, you can always appeal. This usually has to be done in writing and within 60 days of receiving that initial decision. There are four stages in this process you should be aware of, including:


Your attorney can file for reconsideration when your initial application for benefits has been denied. At this stage, the SSA will have a claims examiner who wasn't part of the first review process go over your application and any new evidence your attorney provides that supports your request for benefits. 


If your denial stands after the reconsideration phase, or if you don't agree with the benefit amount you were awarded, you can request a hearing before an administrative judge. There are no juries in these proceedings, just a judge to whom your attorney will argue your case. This could include witness testimony, answering questions before the court, and presenting additional evidence or old evidence that needs to be adequately reviewed. If your case involves recalculation of your approved SSD benefit amount, the judge can also review and recalculate it if deemed appropriate. 

Appeals Council

In situations where an administrative hearing doesn't provide the results you were hoping for, you can ask for the Social Security Appeals Council to review your case. It's important to know that they don't have to grant you a hearing. If they give you a secondary determination, you may go before an administrative judge about your SSD benefits matter, or they might resolve it themselves. Should you go before another judge, your attorney will take the same steps as in the first hearing. 

Federal Court

When all avenues have been exhausted, and your denial still stands, or you aren't satisfied with the benefit findings you received, a federal lawsuit is your next step. Your attorney will file this in federal district court. 

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