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By Diana Wade
Disability Advocate 

Can Tourette's syndrome qualify for Social Security Disability?

Ask the Advocate


January 5, 2019

Diana Wade

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary physical movements or vocal sounds. These actions may include kicking, facial tics, sudden jerking movements, shouts, grunts, or many other fits. In some cases, the symptoms can be quite severe, including involuntary jumping or biting, and can put the individual's safety and well-being in danger.

There are many symptoms that an individual with Tourette's syndrome may suffer from that can prevent that individual from maintaining full-time work activity. The inability to work can lead to significant financial distress. Fortunately, in some cases, Social Security Disability benefits can help alleviate some of the financial stress caused by the condition.

In order to be eligible to receive disability benefits, you must meet the SSA's medical qualifying criteria. When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will compare your condition to a listing of conditions. Unfortunately, there is no specific listing for adults with Tourette's syndrome in the SSA's rules. Individuals who suffer from Tourette's syndrome may, however, be able to qualify under a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Evaluation.

The SSA will evaluate both your physical and mental residual functional capacity. The physical RFC will evaluate your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, climb, etc. The mental RFC will evaluate your ability to mental and emotional work-related activities such as interacting with co-workers and getting along, ability to follow direction, etc. People with Tourette's are more likely to qualify through the mental RFC since the symptoms of Tourette's are frequently disruptive and can have an adverse impact on an individual's ability to interact and be productive in the work place.

When it comes to children with Tourette's, the guidelines are quite different. Children can qualify for by meeting the listing for tic disorders in the blue book. The child must experience:

Ongoing, involuntary motor movements that are repetitive, rapid and purposeless that affect multiple muscle groups along with multiple vocal tics.

Ongoing difficulty with one of the following (not caused by a physical illness or disease):

• Vision

• Speech

• Hearing

• Use of an arm or leg

• Movement and control of the body

• Physical sensation

• Digestion or elimination (urinating or defecating)

• The obsessive belief that the child has a serious disease or injury

In addition, the child must have severe difficulties, for their age group, in two of the following areas:

• Age-appropriate cognitive or communicative function

• Age-appropriate social functioning

• Age-appropriate personal functioning

• Maintaining concentration, persistence or pace

Good medical evidence is essential for a successful outcome, but seeing a person with severe Tourette's Syndrome might be enough to qualify for benefits.

An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email or visit


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