A disability can affect everything in your life — especially your finances. And even if your disability is short-term, it can reduce your work history. This can make it more difficult to qualify for disability and retirement benefits in the future. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a program in place that protects disabled Americans. It’s called the disability freeze. And if you or a loved one plan to retire soon or claim survivors’ benefits, it could affect you.
How The Disability Freeze Program Protects Workers
In order to qualify for regular Social Security retirement or survivors’ benefits, you must have worked a certain number of years, and paid taxes into the Social Security system. Your benefit amount is then computed by your average indexed earnings over your lifetime.
But if you had a period of disability at some point in your career, you would have fewer years, and thus reduced earnings. This could lower and even eliminate potential retirement benefits. Essentially, this is a lose-lose. Workers lose the ability to earn a substantial living due to their disability. And they might also lose future Social Security retirement benefits.
Fortunately, the SSA created the disability freeze program to protect workers. The disability freeze ignores periods of disability when computing retirement or survivors’ benefits. In essence, this prevents individuals from being penalized for those zero-earning years. The disability freeze also applies to employees who were able to overcome their disability and return to work later.
In order to qualify for a disability freeze, you must have one of the following:
The SSA excludes any partial or whole year from computation. This allows the SSA to base your benefit on earnings that do not include your SSI or SSDI benefits.
How Does The Disability Freeze Affect SSD Recipients Who Reach Retirement Age?
Many who are receiving disability benefits are concerned their monthly amount will go down when they retire. The SSA recognizes the concern and the impact your disability has on your earning potential. Instead of utilizing the 35-year work history rule, they only consider work history prior to disability.
So if you don’t have a disability when you retire, the disability freeze comes into play. The SSA will ignore your periods of disability in their calculations for retirement benefits.
This concept, according to the SSA, “is simple but powerful.” Disabilities limit opportunities and income. They shouldn’t also define benefits to hardworking individuals with a disability beyond their control.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
To learn more about the specifications required for a disability freeze, visit the SSA’s website. Or if you have specific questions, speak to an experienced disability attorney or advocate today. They’ll help you navigate the notoriously difficult Social Security laws. Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation now.
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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.