Tourette Syndrome (TS) as a disability- Social Security Administration (SSA)

Any condition can be a disability. The term disability is defined by the entity (organization, agency or company) and the individual in question. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a definition of disability, the US Department of Education has one and most companies, businesses, and insurance policies have them. These are usually there in the context of what the agency does and the services they provide.

There are many people with Tourette Syndrome (TS) who are able to receive disability benefits. As you might already know, TS can be very different from person to person. The tics can be very simple or very complex and often people with TS are also impacted by co-occurring conditions which could cause more difficulties than the tics. Tourette and possibly its co-occurring conditions can be disabling to some and not so much to others.

For a person to be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration he or she must meet the SSA criteria, starting with their definition of disability.

The SSA defines disability in children as:
• Having a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities; and
• The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death.
See the SSA disability for children starter kit fact sheet here

The SSA defines disability in adults as:
• Being unable to do any substantial work because of their medical condition(s) and
• The medical condition(s) must have lasted or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in death.
See the SSA disability for adults starter kit fact sheet here

SSA then evaluates each individual and does an assessment involving various areas of functioning. Based on this and other things such as documentation from the person’s doctor they make a decision on whether or not the individual’s functioning is impaired to such a degree that they can grant disability benefits.
For People with TS, this can be challenging because professionals in the SSA don’t typically have a comprehensive understanding of what TS and its co-occurring conditions are and how these can impact the lives of people who have them. If you have TS and any other conditions and would like to apply for social security benefits it might be helpful to:

• Find someone who can help you through the application process- such as an advocate at a social services organization.
• Provide the SSA information about your disorders. You can find more information about TS at tourette.org
• If you have any other disorders, check if there are organizations for those disorders as well. They might be able to offer direct services or more information to help your process.

To learn more about the application process please contact your local social security office, visit their website www.ssa.gov or call them at 1-800-772-1213
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