Are You Having Trouble Enrolling or Getting TennCare Services for Those with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities?

December 4, 2019 // Author: Vanessa Zapata

This blog post was originally published by TennesseeWorks. To learn more about TennesseeWorks, please visit

Many of you who are familiar with TennesseeWorks likely know about the various programs that TennCare offers to provide home care and support – also referred to as home and community based services (HCBS) – for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, or IDD for short. These programs enable children and adults with IDD to live full and supported lives either independently or at home with their loving families.

Specifically, these programs are:

  • Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES,
  • Katie Beckett Waiver (which may be rolled out in 2020), and
  • the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Waivers (these waivers are closed to new members).

As wonderful as these programs are, we at Tennessee Justice Center have found that some of our clients who are seeking to be enrolled into these programs, or who are already enrolled, are experiencing some issues and frustration. If you are facing such difficulties, we are here to help!

What is the Tennessee Justice Center?

The Tennessee Justice Center is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization. We use the law and advocacy to ensure that Tennesseans can meet their most basic needs and have a pathway to opportunity. We will provide free information, support, and legal services for problems with your public health care benefits. Here is our contact information:

  • Phone: (615) 255-0331
  • Toll-free: (877) 608-1009
  • Email:

Depending on the time of year, we are sometimes unable to accept new cases. However, if we are open for new cases, and if you reach out to our office, we will conduct an intake with you over the phone. We will then assign a caseworker to your case. The caseworker will work with you to resolve the problem you are having or will provide more information to you. Sometimes resolving the problem just requires a letter sent to TennCare, but sometimes it requires an administrative hearing and even a hearing in court. If we have a legal argument, one of our attorneys or a pro bono attorney who volunteers with our organization will represent you at no charge and help you argue your case.

Here are some problems that our office commonly sees regarding TennCare’s programs for individuals with IDD:

Already enrolled but not getting services

If someone you know is already enrolled on any of these programs but is having difficulty getting the services they are supposed to be getting, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. Please be aware that because of TennCare’s limited funding, not everyone who gets enrolled receives services right away.

Eligible but need help applying

If the person is already on TennCare, contact the person’s managed care organization, which is on their TennCare card. If they are not on TennCare, contact your local regional office of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. If you need help identifying who to call, we can help with that. Again, please be aware that because of limited funding, not everyone who applies gets enrolled right away.

Interested and want more information

If you are interested in these programs but are not sure about eligibility, our office can provide more detailed and specific information based on your situation. Please callmy direct office number at (615) 846-4714.

On the waiting list and have been waiting for a long time

While we can’t really help through a legal argument, we are interested in hearing your story. Sometimes, just telling your story to the right people brings about change! Please contact Vanessa Zapata.

Don’t need services for someone with IDD, but are having problems with TennCare or other benefits?

We can help with that as well! Our office primarily has expertise in health care and government food benefits, but we will be able to refer you to an outside organization if you are having problems with other benefits. Depending on our caseload we may be unable to accept your case when you call. Please keep our contact information and follow up if we are closed to new cases.

Vanessa Zapata graduated from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2019. She also worked as a summer legal intern at Tennessee Justice Center in 2018. Vanessa was awarded the George Barrett Social Justice Fellowship in order to continue working at TJC. To find out more information about Vanessa and Tennessee Justice Center, you can visit the website: If you think you need some help or want to share your story, you can contact TJC at (615) 255-0331. You can also reach TJC toll-free at (877) 608-1009.