TN 11 (01-22)

DI 10105.005 Eligibility for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) or the Disability “Freeze”

A. Purpose of a disability freeze

The following describe the purpose of a Disability Freeze:

  • To eliminate the years of low earnings (due to a worker’s disability) from the computation of benefits and to preserve the worker’s insured status. A period of disability for a worker is therefore often referred to as a “disability freeze.”

  • Insured status is frozen to protect future rights and benefits.

  • When an onset is established several years in the past, it is the DIB freeze that preserves insured status and allows payment to start based on a recent claim.

  • Any year wholly or partially in a period of DIB is excluded from the computation (not counted among elapsed years). This preserves a benefit based on earnings at the time disability began.

  • See DI 10105.000, Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Freeze.

  • See DI 26001.010 for Title II Disability Freeze.

B. Eligibility requirements for monthly DIB or freeze

To be entitled to monthly cash DIB or to the disability “freeze” (i.e., a period of disability), a disabled worker (i.e., number holder) must meet the following requirements:

  1. 1. 

    The worker must have disability insured status:

    • DIB Insured Status (RS 00301.120), or

    • Special Insured Status for Disability Before Age 31 (RS 00301.140), or

    • Insured Status for Statutory Blindness (RS 00301.150)

      NOTE: An overview of insured status is located at RS 00301.101. Information about quarters of coverage (QC) and how they are earned and assigned is located in RS 00301.200 through RS 00301.350.

  2. 2. 

    The individual must file an application with the Social Security Administration. Cash benefits can be retroactive for no more than 12 months before the month the application is filed and cannot be paid under the law as amended in 1965 for months prior to September 1965.

  3. 3. 

    The individual must be disabled and furnish such proof of the existence of disability as may be required.

  4. 4. 

    For initial entitlement to DIB the number holder (NH) must serve a waiting period consisting of 5 full calendar months (DI 10105.070). Subsequent periods of entitlement may be exempt from this requirement (DI 10105.075). DIB claims approved on or after 07/23/2020 based on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) are exempt from this requirement.

C. Totalization Agreements

SSA may combine an individual’s U.S. and foreign earnings from a country when the U.S. has entered into a totalization agreement with that country. The NH must have at least 6 U.S. quarters of coverage (QC) to be eligible for totalization benefits (see GN 01703.100). The Division of International Operations (DIO) is responsible for adjudicating all claims for totalization where the NH has at least 6 QCs, but not enough to be insured for U.S. benefits and meets all other requirements.

D. Eligibility to freeze but not cash benefits

Certain persons may be eligible for the freeze but not for cash disability benefits. They include:

  • Statutorily blind persons able to engage in substantial gainful activity, except those who come under an occupational disability and are not working.

  • Persons whose eligibility for a period of disability is based upon railroad earnings or military service not creditable for Social Security benefit purposes.

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DI 10105.005 - Eligibility for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) or the Disability “Freeze” - 01/18/2022
Batch run: 01/18/2022