Tips for Tennessee Residents Applying for Disability Benefits
Applying for Social Security Disability Income can be a frustrating experience. Many initial SSDI claims are denied, either due to technical errors on the application or because administrators determine an applicant has failed to show adequate proof of disability.
The good news for residents of Tullahanoma and the surrounding counties of the Cumberland Plateau serviced by the Tullahoma Social Security District Office is that you don’t have to visit the local district office to apply for benefits — you can complete your application online. Even so, it can be a time-consuming task that requires a lot of planning.
How to Know When it’s Time to File for Social Security Disability
Before you officially apply for Social Security Disability in Tennessee, you may wonder whether you should proceed. The answer is “yes” as long as your situation puts you into the following categories:
- You have been (or doctors expect you to be) unable to perform work for at least 12 months.
- You have a work history of employment with companies that took money from your paycheck for Social Security. Depending upon your age, your salary history will enable you to prove enough “work credits” to validly apply for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are unclear about this, you can speak with a legal professional or go to the Tullahoma Social Security office for assistance.
- You cannot adjust to new work that would allow you to earn approximately what you did before because of your disability. If you currently work part-time after losing a job because of disability, you must make less than $1,180 per month to receive Social Security Disability in Tullahoma.
If you fall into these categories, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability. However, you must act responsibly and efficiently. If you wait longer than five years from the last day you were employed, your claim could potentially be denied because of expired work credits.
What to Expect from The Social Security Disability Application Process
As a newcomer to the Social Security Disability application procedure, you may have a lot of questions regarding how long your application approval or denial will take. Like most protocols, it depends on a number of factors, including the type of disability you have.
In some cases, the Tullahoma Social Security office can speed up the process. This happens when a disability falls under a “Compassionate Allowance” category. For instance, many types of neurological disorders and cancer diagnoses enable an applicant to be fast-tracked.
When you speak with someone at the Tullahoma office or with an attorney who assists people filing for Social Security Disability (or those who have been denied), always ask about Compassionate Allowances.
Why You Might Want Help Filing an Online Social Security Disability Application
The following paragraphs and charts will guide you through the process of filing online for Social Security Disability. Even if you are comfortable with technology, you may want to consider working with a legal representative to help you through the process.
A person knowledgeable about Social Security Disability can give you insights into how to complete your application without technical mistakes. They can also ensure that you have the proper documentation.
In addition to consulting a lawyer about filing, you can also go to the Tullahoma Social Security office for assistance.
After you have completed your online application, John R. Colvin can take over from that point and follow the application through the determination stages if you retain his services.
To file an online application for Social Security Disability log onto:
www.socialsecurity.gov/ and follow the prompts:
- Click on the “Benefits” tab in the dark blue banner.
- Under “Apply” click on “Apply Online for Disability.”
- Scroll down and click on the button that says “Apply for Disability.”
- Scroll down and click on the button that says “Start a New Application.”
Now you are ready to begin answering the questions in order to complete the application process. Please remember to always write down your re-entry number that allows you to go back into your application and finish the process in case you have to stop for any reason while online.
Here’s the information you’ll need to prepare in advance:
- Personal information – In addition to providing your own personal information, you’ll also need to provide the Social Security number and date of birth or age for your current spouse and any former spouses, as well as dates of marriage, divorce, or death.
If you don’t have the information about previous spouses, you may be able to obtain such by contacting your respective county clerk’s office in either Franklin County, Bedford County, Lincoln County, Moore County or Coffee County, the county clerk where the birth, marriage, divorce, or death occurred.
You must also be prepared to state your height without shoes and your weight without shoes.
- Medical information – This can be one of the most complicated parts of a disability application because you must provide a detailed record of your medical condition.
- Medical Conditions: List all of the physical or mental conditions (including emotional or learning problems) that limit your ability to work. If you have cancer, please include the stage and type. List each condition separately.
- Medical Sources: List any doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, or emergency rooms you have visited because of your conditions.
|NAME||ADDRESS||PHONE #||DATE SEEN or admitted||DATE LAST SEEN OR discharge date|
- Medicines: List any medicines you take and why you take them. If prescribed, please provide the doctor’s name.
|NAME OF MEDICATION||WHY TAKEN||PRESCRIBED BY|
- Medical Tests: List any medical tests you had or are going to have in the future.
|NAME OF TEST||PROVIDER WHO SENT YOU||DATE(S)|
NOTE: Even if you have thorough documentation of your medical history or treatment, there is a possibility that the Social Security claims reviewers may determine the medical evidence provided is insufficient to confirm disability, and you may be asked to undergo a consultative examination, usually performed by an examiner selected by the Disability Determination Section who is oftentimes not your treating physician. This allows the SSA office to gather more details about your condition to be utilized in the review process.
- Employment information – Aside from reporting your work history, you must report any benefits you have received, such as Workers’ Compensation, Black Lung Benefits, military retirement pensions, and state or local disability insurance.
Job History: Please state when you stopped working. You must list the jobs (up to 5) that you have had in the 15 years before you became unable to work because of your physical or mental conditions. List your most recent job first.
|Job Title||Type of business||Dates Worked||Hours Per Day||Days Per Week||Rate of Pay|
Understandably, the level of detail required in SSDI applications presents a problem for many people who don’t have adequate records or can’t recall specifics about their past. In some cases, an illness, injury, or medical condition may interfere with a person’s ability to accurately complete an application, and friends or relatives who try to help may not be able to find the required information.
Applying Online for Social Security Disability May Make Sense for You
Even if you aren’t computer savvy, you may still find applying for Social Security Disability online more streamlined than visiting the Tullahoma Social Security office. Still, you will have to gather a wide range of documentation. Plus, you may still need to send original items, such as your birth certificate, through the mail.
How you apply is up to you, but it is important that you take the time to be thorough. Do not expect to rush through the online application. The more focused you are, the more information the Social Security Administration will have to determine whether to approve or deny your claim.
Even if you have to spend several days on your online application, it may still be faster than setting up an appointment and going to the Tullahoma Social Security office in person. Plus, you can save your application if you only have short bursts of time to work on it.
After sending your online application, you will receive notification of receipt from the Social Security Administration. This helps you stay in touch and understand what’s happening by logging in at your convenience. Be aware that you may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation if your application is missing key elements. Typically, you will receive your approval or denial via mail.
The Determination Process
The first step in the determination process begins with the Tullahoma Social Security office’s review of your application and transmitting the application to the Tennessee Disability Determination Section for consideration. Very few initial disability claims are approved – only about 28 to 37 percent. The most common reasons for denial are technical errors, such as failing to provide all required information, and medical errors, such as failing to prove that an injury, illness, or condition is disabling to the degree that employment is impossible.
Having a claim denied can be frustrating as well as scary. However, it does not necessarily mean that you can never get Social Security Disability for yourself or a dependent. In fact, many people who have been denied Social Security Disability take steps to work with a lawyer in Tennessee to reverse the decision.
With the help of an attorney, a claimant who has been denied benefits may appeal that decision. The appeals process is progressive, beginning with a reconsideration review. At each further phase in the appeals process, winning a decision in favor of the applicant becomes more technically difficult, so it’s important to get legal help as early in the process as possible. Ideally, claimants should consult an attorney in preparation of filing their initial application, to avoid common mistakes.
Frequently Seen Errors on Initial Social Security Disability Claims
As knowledgeable attorneys know, many initial Social Security Disability applications are filled with errors.
Some of the top mistakes made on claims include:
- Omitting account information from all financial institutions. The Tullahoma Social Security office needs all the information, even if you only have a small amount in a savings account.
- Forgetting about life insurance policy details. Before submitting your application, be certain you wrote down all the life insurance policy data. Not sure of cash value for policies? Contact your life insurance carrier for exact figures.
- Changing descriptions of employment. Don’t want to say you were a manager or worked as an assistant because you’re afraid you will be denied Social Security Disability? You have to be honest. Otherwise, you could get in trouble.
- Omitting gifted money from friends and loved ones. Be upfront about the monies you have been given, including anything you received online through funding or donation platforms.
- Having too little medical documentation of your disability. If you are having difficulty getting this information from your medical advisors, physicians, physical therapists, hospitals, clinics, etc., you may want to speak with a lawyer immediately. Without proper documentation, your Social Security Disability claim is more apt to be denied.
- Trying to submit a brand-new application for Social Security Disability within 60 days after the first one was denied. Instead of re-starting the process, contact an attorney instead.
- Omitting employer information. It can be hard to remember every employer you worked for, especially if your disability affects short- or long-term memory. In most cases, an advocate can help you piece together your work history to make your application stronger.
- Forgetting to send an original birth certificate. Copies of other documents are acceptable, but your original birth certificate is needed by the Tullahoma Social Security office. Don’t have a copy of it? You can get a replacement by contacting Tennessee Vital Records in Nashville at (615) 741-1763.
If you have questions about your application, you can visit or call the Tullahoma Social Security office at:
717 Kings Lane
Tullahoma, TN 37338
Disability Statistics in Tennessee
The Tennessee Disability Determination Services (DDS) approved 29 disability claims at the initial stage, which fell short of the national average. Only 1 in every 10 applications were approved after the applicants filed for reconsideration.
On the other hand, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) awarded disability benefits in over 56 percent of all the cases they heard. 89 and 11 percent of the approvals were considered fully and partially favorable, respectively although they took 14 months to be decided.
If your claim is denied at the initial application level, you are not out of luck. You can work with an experienced Tennessee Social Security Disability Lawyer to request a judge hearing.
Can You Appeal If Your Application Is Denied?
Many disability applications are denied in the initial application stage. But, as already mentioned, you can always appeal the decision. The appeals process in Tullahoma includes the following steps, all of which require the help of a Tullahoma Disability Attorney:
- Reconsideration – You have 60 days from the initial denial to request that the SSA reconsider your application. Once you do, a new claims examiner will be appointed to your case.
- Hearing – If your reconsideration request is denied, you have 60 days from the denial date to request a hearing in front of an ALJ, which will be held at a hearing office.
- Appeals Council – The ALJ may award benefits or deny your claim. If the latter happens, you will have 60 days from the denial date to appeal to the Appeals Council (AC). The AC can reverse the ALJ’s decision, request that they reconsider some evidence, or deny your request.
- Federal Court – Your final form or recourse is to appeal the AC’s decision to the federal district court.
John R. Colvin, Attorney at Law, has successfully represented clients in Tullahoma and throughout Tennessee and Alabama in their efforts to understand and apply for SSDI. For over 20 years, he has been helping people navigate the confusing process of getting disability benefits, and he is ready to help you. For advice on how to proceed next or if you have any questions about this topic, call (931) 962-1044 or submit our online form. Put his bold approach and client focus to work for you.