Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

Is social security disability and SSI harder for a woman to get?

I think you can make the argument that, in some cases, it is harder for a woman to qualify for either social security disability or SSI disability benefits. This does not appear to be the case for disability approvals made on the basis of meeting or equaling the requirments of a listing (the impairment listing manual, or blue book, contains approval criteria for a number of medical impairments). However, it can happen in cases where individuals are approved for benefits on the basis of a medical vocational allowance.

Medical vocational allowances occur when the determination is made that a claimant cannot return to their past work, and further cannot be expected to perform suitable types of other work.

How are women and men treated differently under this approval system? Well, consider this scenario. A man applies for disability benefits at the age of 55 and his past work was considered light (light work is the ability to lift 10 lbs frequently and 20 lbs occasionally). Furthermore, after reviewing his medical evidence, it is determined by social security that he is still capable of light work.

Will he be approved for disability? No, because he is considered capable of light work and his past work was classified as light. In other words, he can go back to his past work.

However, take an individual whose profile is exactly the same with the only difference being that his past work was medium (the ability to lift 25 lbs frequently and 50 lbs occasionally) and he will be approved for disability benefits.

This is because the rules used to govern social security decisions actually gives an individual who is 55 a break if his past work was medium and he is now only capable of light work. And this is a fair and compassionate break that takes into account the fact that older individuals with a history of labor-intensive work may not have the vocational flexibility to shift to different occupations by a certain age.

Are women given this same compassionate break? Theoretically, yes, but in practical terms, not really, simply because very few women will be in the position of having worked a job that can be classified as medium (lifting fifty pounds occasionally is significant even for most males).

Some would respond to this by saying that this is an fortunate but reasonable outcome. But is it reasonable? Part of the reasoning behind the medical vocational grid used by the social security administration is that 1. individuals of a certain age cannot be expected to transfer to new work as easily as younger individuals and 2. the base of jobs available to older individuals is significantly diminished as compared to the base of jobs available to younger individuals.

So, on the one hand a 55-year-old male with a history of medium work, who has been limited to light work, will be approved for disability benefits while a 55-year-old female with a history of light work, who has also been limited to light work, will not be approved for disability benefits---despite the fact that most women will not physically be capable of medium work and therefore could not have gotten this kind of job.

Is this fair? Not really. And here's why. The 55-year-old female disability applicant is just as disabled in the eyes of the social security administration as the 55-year-old male (remember, both individuals were limited to light work) but only one will qualify for benefits due to a factor that is largely beyond the control of most women, which is the inability, in most cases, to perform medium work.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Filing for disability with carpal tunnel syndrome
Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Daily Activities?
Using an RFC form to win a disability case
Using an RFC form to qualify for disability at a hearing
Filing for disability with Post polio syndrome
How to file for disability in Delaware
Can You Get Disability Benefits If You Were Self-Employed?
Developmental Delay and Filing for Disability
Tips for Getting Disability Approved
Can if I win disability if I file for back problems?
How much SS backpay do you get?
Disability approvals over age 50
The Social Security Award Notice
Spinal Stenosis and Filing for Disability
Can you be approved for disability without a hearing?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

My Social Security Disability SSI appeal status
Disability back pay, how it works
Eligibility criteria requirements for disability
Qualifying requirements for disability
Decision on disability case, are you eligible for a disability award
When is a Person Considered Disabled by Social Security?
Forms to appeal a Social Security Disability denial
Permanent disability benefits
How to qualify for disability with depression
If Social Security sends you to a psychiatrist
Disability denied twice
How to claim disability
How many times will Social Security deny you?
Applying for Disability with high blood pressure
Will my children get benefits if I get approved for disability?
How much time for a decision on a disability claim?
Can you work if you get an SSI disability check?
How to File for SSI
Filing for disability, how to apply for SSD, SSI
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
How to get disability
How to appeal a disability denial