How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

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Can You Get Disability Benefits If You Were Self-Employed?
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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

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.