TN 2 (12-14)
DI 26001.010 Title II Disability Freeze
A. Disability freeze provisions
For disability insurance benefits (DIB), we can eliminate low earnings due to a claimant’s disability from the computation of benefits. This preserves the claimant’s insured status and prevents the loss of future retirement or disability benefits.
We refer to the period of disability during which earnings are eliminated from computation as a freeze, disability freeze, or blindness freeze.
For more information about a disability freeze, see DI 10105.005 and DI 25501.380A.1.
B. Special freeze provisions for blindness
A DIB claimant with statutory blindness is entitled to a disability freeze based on medical findings alone regardless of his or her ability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA limits are higher for blind DIB claimants than for nonblind DIB claimants.
A blind claimant working:
at the blind SGA level is performing SGA. He or she is entitled to a disability freeze but not cash benefits
below the blind SGA level is not performing SGA. He or she is entitled to both a disability freeze and cash benefits.
DI 10515.001 Evaluation of Work of Blind Employees (Title II)
DI 10501.015 Tables of SGA Earnings Guidelines and Effective Dates Based on Year of Work Activity
DI 26005.001D SGA earnings guidelines for blind Title II claimants
C. Freeze exceptions for childhood disability benefits (CDB) and disabled widow(er)’s benefits (DWB)
Blind CDB and DWB claimants are not entitled to a disability freeze.
If a blind CDB or DWB claimant is working at the blind SGA level, we must deny or terminate a period of disability and cash benefits within the trial work period provisions.
For work comparability provisions that apply to CDB and DWB claimants who are age 55 or older and statutorily blind, see DI 26005.001E.
D. No duration requirement for a disability freeze
The duration requirement for statutory blindness under Title II DIB is different for a disability freeze and cash benefits.
1. Cash benefits
The 12-month duration requirement applies for cash benefits.
2. Disability freeze
There is no duration requirement for a disability freeze. However, because a disability freeze is also a period of disability, there is a separate requirement that a period of disability must last at least 5 full calendar months.
E. Freeze-only blindness determinations
The field office will send a “freeze-only” DIB claim to the disability determination services for a blindness determination (see DI 26001.015A.2.) if the claimant: