What is a Disability Freeze and how do I Apply for One?

A disability freeze is a period of time in which your earnings information is not considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when computing Social Security Disability (SSD) payments.

Because an average of your historical earnings is what determines the amount of your monthly benefits check for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, having a period of very low earnings on your record can have negative effects on your SSDI benefits.
If you’re disabled temporarily and have lower income for a period of time as a result, you can apply for a “disability freeze” during that period. The SSA would then review your earnings history differently if you do later need to apply for SSD benefits.

One example of a period in which a disability freeze may be beneficial is if you’re temporarily disabled and receiving short term disability payments through your employer’s disability plan. Most such disability plans only pay a percentage of your regular wages or salary.

This means your earnings while temporarily disabled will be lower than your standard earnings. A decrease in earnings during temporary disability can bring down the overall average of your earnings record, if you do later need to apply for SSD benefits. Applying for a disability freeze during a period of disability can make the averaging of your earnings record conducted later by the SSA more accurate, which can in turn increase your monthly SSD payments as a result.

Not all individuals qualify for a disability freeze and there are a number of factors that can influence who qualifies and when. In some cases, historical periods of disability can be taken into account by the SSA even if you didn’t apply for a disability freeze at the time. Additionally, in some circumstances, a disability freeze can even be placed on your earnings record while you’re receiving SSD benefit payments.

If you need to apply for a disability freeze, or believe you may qualify for one, you can contact the SSA directly. However, as the rules governing disability freezes are complicated and can be confusing, many people decide to seek the assistance of a disability advocate or Social Security Disability attorney. Getting help with understanding and applying for a disability freeze can especially be beneficial if you believe your short term disability may turn into a long term, permanently condition.