Uncontrolled tics such as shouting random words or wincing in veterans can point to tourettes syndrome or other VA disabilities.
Do you ever find yourself blinking, grunting, or shrugging your shoulders involuntarily? Do obscene words pop out of your mouth without your permission, or do you find yourself mimicking people’s words or actions? If this sounds familiar, you could be living with Tourette’s syndrome.
Tourette’s syndrome is a condition that causes you to experience repeated verbal and motor tics that are completely out of your control. And if you served in the military, you could be entitled to VA disability compensation for this condition. Read on to learn more about Tourette’s and how you can get a disability compensation check if you have it.
What You’ll Find in This Article:
- What Is Tourette’s Syndrome?
- Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome
- Motor Tics
- Vocal Tics
- Causes of Tourette’s Syndrome
- Risk Factors
- How It’s Diagnosed
- How to Qualify for VA Disability
- Getting a Diagnosis
- Proving a Service Connection
- Getting a Medical Nexus
- How Disability Ratings Work
- Ratings for Tourette Syndrome
- VA Disability Compensation
- If Your Claim Is Denied
- Learn More About Tourette Syndrome
What Is Tourette’s Syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a disorder that causes unwanted, uncontrollable tics. These tics can be verbal, motor, or both, and can vary in how troublesome they are. Many people with Tourette’s syndrome are able to live healthy, happy lives with relatively little disturbance.
In most cases, Tourette syndrome appears in childhood, often between the ages of two and 15. Boys are about four times more likely to develop Tourette syndrome than girls. There is no cure for Tourette syndrome, though there are treatments and some people gain a measure of control over their tics.
(Medical authorities use Tourette and Tourette’s equally for this condition. We use both in this article and in our documentation.)
Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome
The primary symptom of Tourette syndrome is sporadic, involuntary tics. These tics can be more or less severe and may show up a little differently for everybody. Severe symptoms can cause problems in your communication and can make it hard for you to work a normal job or maintain healthy relationships.
There are two basic types of a tic: simple and complex. Simple tics are brief and repetitive, involving only a small number of muscle groups, such as the eyes, head, or shoulders. Complex tics involve distinct, coordinated patterns of movement that involve several muscle groups, and yet remain involuntary.
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Beyond simple and complex tics, a person with Tourette syndrome may experience motor or vocal tics. Motor tics are involuntary movements of the body. Simple motor tics can include eye blinking, head jerking, eye darting, nose twitching, shoulder shrugging, or movements of the mouth.
Complex motor tics can appear more like intentional actions, though the person has no control over them. This may include touching or smelling things, mimicking movements they see other people perform, or walking in a certain pattern. They may also bend, twist, hop, or even make obscene gestures.
A person with Tourette syndrome may also experience vocal tics along with the same range as motor tics. Simple tics can manifest as a sort of grunting or coughing noise that is repeated frequently. The affected person may also grunt or even bark at random intervals.
Complex verbal tics can cause serious issues in their work or relationships. The person may get caught in loops of repeating the same phrase over and over or copying everything someone else says. They may even use vulgar words loudly and at random.
The VA Rating formula for mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders is explained by one of our veterans’ disability lawyers in this video:
Causes of Tourette’s Syndrome
Doctors are still not entirely sure what causes Tourette syndrome. Some people think that it may be a genetic disorder. Environmental factors, either during pregnancy, childhood, or later life, may also play a role in who develops Tourette syndrome.
Experts do speculate that Tourette syndrome may have to do with the mishandling of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are both hormones that impact things like your mood and sleep quality. When they are not handled correctly, this could cause the tics that characterize Tourette’s.
There are a few factors that can raise your risk of developing Tourette syndrome. The first of these, as we’ve discussed, is gender. Males are much more likely to develop Tourette syndrome than girls.
Your family medical history may also have an impact on your chances of developing Tourette’s. If one of your relatives has or had Tourette syndrome, you may be more likely to develop it. The same goes for similar tic disorders such as OCD, Asperger syndrome, or autism.
Many people who have Tourette syndrome lead healthy, happy lives with relatively few complications. But sometimes, Tourette’s can cause more significant complications that make it harder for you to live your best life. For one thing, people with Tourette syndrome often have some sort of comorbid disorder.
ADHD and OCD are common co-diagnosis in people who have Tourette’s. You may also be on the autism spectrum, have a learning disability, have trouble sleeping, or experience depression. Anxiety disorders, pain, and anger management problems are also common.
How It’s Diagnosed
When you first visit your doctor about your suspected Tourette’s, they may want to run a variety of tests. This will help them rule out any other underlying conditions that could be causing your tics. Your doctor may want to run blood tests or scans like an MRI or CAT scan.
Once your doctor rules out other causes, there are a few criteria they’ll look for to diagnose you with Tourette syndrome. Both motor and vocal tics must be present, though not necessarily at the same time. These tics must occur several times a day for more than a year, and they can’t have been caused by medications or a medical condition.
How to Qualify for VA Disability
If you receive a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome while you’re in the military, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. In order to qualify, there are three basic criteria you’ll have to meet.
First, you must have an official diagnosis of Tourette syndrome from a VA-approved doctor. You must be able to point to an incident or set of conditions in your military service that could have caused your condition. And you must have an official medical nexus from your doctor connecting the two.
Getting a Diagnosis
The first step you’ll need to take in order to get VA disability compensation is to get an official diagnosis. In most cases, your family doctor will be able to provide you with a VA-approved diagnosis. If they can’t, they can refer you to a specialist who can give you a diagnosis.
Before your appointment, you may want to gather some documentation to speed the process along. First, bring a complete personal and family medical history and a list of your symptoms, including how frequently you experience them. You may also want to bring your military, medical and service records with you to this appointment.
Proving a Service Connection
Once you have an official diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, it’s time to start looking in your military service records for causes. For Tourette’s, this could include a traumatic head injury, exposure to dangerous chemicals, or conditions that severely impacted your mental health. You may also be able to connect your Tourette syndrome to a condition you already get VA compensation for, such as OCD or PTSD.
In order to prove a service connection, you’ll need to get a copy of your military service records. In most cases, you can download these through your eBenefits account under the documentation tab. You can also visit your local VA office for help getting these records.
Getting a Medical Nexus
With your diagnosis and service connection in hand, it’s time to get a medical nexus from your doctor. If you have your military records at the time of your diagnosing appointment, your doctor should be able to provide that nexus on the same day. A medical nexus is effectively a written statement from your doctor affirming that your condition was at least as likely as not caused by the incident in your military service.
A medical nexus is designed to prevent veterans from claiming disability for non-service-related conditions. For instance, you can’t get in a car accident years after you served and seek disability for a traumatic brain injury. However, if you also received a concussion in the military, you may have a valid claim.
How Disability Ratings Work
Once the VA approves your disability claim, you will receive a disability rating. This will be expressed as a percentage and is designed to reflect how much your condition impacts your ability to live a normal, healthy life. The higher the percentage, the greater impact your condition has on your life.
The VA uses your disability rating as the primary factor in determining how much compensation you will receive each month. For compensation purposes, your rating will be rounded to the nearest 10 percent. Ratings that receive compensation can range from 10 percent all the way up to 100 percent.
Ratings for Tourette Syndrome
Tourette syndrome does not have a rating of its own but is rather rated in with other convulsive tic disorders. You can get one of three ratings for a Tourette syndrome diagnosis: 0 percent, 10 percent, and 30 percent. These ratings are based on how frequent your tics are, how severe they are, and which muscle groups are involved.
If your Tourette syndrome is mild, your tics are relatively infrequent and mild, and only limited muscle groups are involved, you may receive a rating of 0 percent. If you have more frequent or severe tics involving larger muscle groups, you could get a 10 percent rating. And if your tics are severe, involving large muscle groups and occurring frequently, you could get a rating of 30 percent.
VA Disability Compensation
If you receive a 0 percent disability rating, you will receive no monthly compensation from the VA. They recognize that you have a condition, but do not believe it impacts your life severely enough to warrant compensation. If you receive a rating of 10 percent, you will receive $152.64 per month, tax-free.
For ratings of 30 percent and above, the VA considers whether you have people depending on you financially when determining your compensation amount.
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If Your Claim Is Denied
If you file a claim with the VA and it’s denied, don’t worry. You can always appeal your case, including sending it all the way up to the BVA in Washington, D.C., if necessary. You can also appeal ratings you feel are unfairly low.
If you plan to appeal a VA disability claim, it may be a good idea to hire a lawyer who specializes in veteran affairs. For one thing, they will be able to help you navigate the confusing world of deadlines, documentation, and hearings. But they can also give you tips for how to make your case more convincing and successful the first time around.
Learn More About Tourette Syndrome
Tourette’s syndrome can have a serious impact on your life, but with treatment, you can learn to manage it. If you suspect you may have Tourette’s, make an appointment with your doctor. Then start the process of filing a claim with the VA in order to get the compensation you need.
Get in touch with us at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, to get professional help with your claim. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation you deserve.