Learning the Lingo of Social Security

two men chatting Is Social Security a topic in your conversations these days? Are you familiar with the lingo used to describe Social Security benefits, or does it sound like a new vocabulary to you?

Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. But if a technical term or acronym (an abbreviation of the first letters of words in a phrase) that you don’t know slips into the conversation or appears in written material, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/glossary

Social Security acronyms function as verbal shorthand in our financial planning conversations. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms involve your benefit amount based on when you decide to take it.

If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount.

What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases.

Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. But don’t expect a refreshing drink — a COLA is a Cost of Living Adjustment, and that usually means a little extra money in your monthly payment.

Knowing some of these terms can help you fine-tune your conversations about Social Security.  If one of those unknown terms or acronyms does come up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the lingo can deepen your understanding of how Social Security works for you. Discover more at www.socialsecurity.gov.


57 thoughts on “Learning the Lingo of Social Security

  1. In written communications, the first time a technical term is used it should be spelled out with it’s acronym in parenthesis. Thereafter, use the acronym. Never use only the acronym in written communications, it forces the reader to do additional research to understand what has been written.

    Please advise SSA staff that the public is not familiar with Social Security industry jargon.

    • @carols: Ahem…that’s what this blog post – yes, the post you’re commenting on – is saying. It gave the acronym followed by the words behind the letters (titles), followed by a full explanation of the function of each concept/program/acronym. It even explained what an acronym is and why it’s used. All of which begs the question: Exactly what are you criticizing the SSA for doing or failing to do in this blog post? A rhetorical question, of course, given that I’ve already demonstrated that the article includes everything you believe it should, and more.

      • Hi Marc,

        You are correct, this SSA narrative does present as I commented. In my comment I wanted to note that not all SSA communications (this blog and personal communications) follow this format, i.e. use SSA acronyms without explanation.

  2. We all will welcome any simplified presentations that are received in “common, everyday English language”, After all this is America; others can find interpreters, if need be!

  3. Isn’t it strange that no one ever mentions the medicare surcharge based on Adjusted Gross Income that was slipped in quietly a few years ago?

        • Hi Kelvin, when it comes to qualifying for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Income or SSDI program, individuals must have worked
          –long enough and recently enough– under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you have to earn within the last 10 years before you become disabled. Thanks!

    • Yeah rightyeah nothing better to do at 40 years old but get through out after operation with no money no help I wish it on all of you after working 16 at one factory with 30 hours overtime a week then another for 14 year with 36 hours overtime to get shit wait I m ome in million who got medicare ins when have private plan co went operation so be quite

    • “easyer” ?for “every one”

      Did you mean easier for everyone?

      If you did, they use acronyms to shorten the letters and not keep repeating 4-5 words when they can use an acronym.

      They give an explanation and the full wording of what the acronym means at the beginning of the letter. They then will just use the acronym throughout the rest of the letter.

      I guess they need to start making their letters ‘easyer’ to read so people that can’t even spell a simple word can understand.

      Oh wait, people wouldn’t understand anyway and will always complain. I don’t know what I was thinking.

  4. I’m still employed, age 71, and I’m receiving social security. Will the benifits increase each year I work or is it set for the rest of my life time?

    • Your benefits can increase. By now at your age you should have experienced re computations of your benefits each year that you worked and received notices around this time each year. So it is puzzling why you’d ask such a question.

    • Thank you for your questions Richard. The amount of benefits you receive is established at the time you applied for retirement benefits. It is based on the amount of your average lifetime earnings and your age at the time you applied. Generally, if you continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, your monthly benefit amount could increase. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase monthly benefits. See our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working for more information.

  5. Starting at age 62, you get a higher monthly benefit if you claim later rather than earlier. This holds true right up to age 70. Why the focus on FRA?

  6. I do not like the fact that our CPI is lower than people that aren’t on SS. We pay the same prices in the stores as every one else. I don’t think it is fair.

  7. I would say that Social Security employees need to be more customer friendly. I have met some very nice people but also some who act like they are doing me a favor. It’s not a favor. It’s their job and it’s MY money. I do like your article :Learning the Lingo of Social Security” but they should be speaking the “Lingo” of the English language, when ever possible. Everyone has certain terminology they use on their specific jobs but usually know it doesn’t carry over to the public at large. Thank you to all the employees who care to do the best job possible for their customers.

  8. I am victim some body use may information and Social security to register a New born Child need help to report this to authorities also I am USA Citizen but never report this change to Social Security and all ways can verify may Citizenship thanks for the collaboration on this matter.

    • Hi Paula, you may call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. The earliest age to apply and receive Social Security Retirement Benefits is 62, but if you decide to get benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced. Also, you can create a My Social Security account to review your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. When you are ready, you can complete your application for retirement benefits online.
      Remember, through our Blog and Facebook page, we respond to questions and provide general information on our Retirement, Survivors, Disability, Medicare and SSI programs. If you have a general question, we encourage you to ask here. But remember, never post personal information on social media. Thanks!

  9. I feel….that acronyms are very helpful, and I’m glad that this website has a glossary!
    Also, I feel that us beneficiaries ought to have a chance…on being individual rep payees!
    I reckon….that being a representative payee for someone else can become rather burdensome, and….not only that, I feel we ought to have a chance to prove that we can manage our benefits! And, on top of that….most representative payees aren’t trustworthy! We are often used, and taken advantage of! They tend to use our benefits…to suit their needs verses us beneficiaries’ needs.

  10. I was told on yesterday I did not qualify for spousal benefit from my husband because I made $37.00 over the amount, ($840.00) monthly. He is getting $2200.00 monthly.
    Because I took early retirement at 62,I had previously been told I had to wait until he start drawing his social security before I could apply for spousal benefit. He wil draw his first check 11/15/2017.
    I was at home with our children for 15 years before I went back to work. We have been married 48years and 5 children, don’t this count for something
    I’m totally in shock that the information I had been given was incorrect and was given by a social securty employee.

    • Hi Belinda. In order to receive spouse’s retirement benefits at age 62 (or older), your spouse must be receiving retirement or disability benefits. Also, if a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for. Remember, if someone is eligible for both, his or her own benefit and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay their own first. If their spousal benefits are higher than their own retirement benefits, he or she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. See our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information. Thanks.

  11. My fiance is incaarcerated on 3 duis, he draws disability which he worked for wll his life i e the coal mines. Mind you he is in jail not prison. I got a letter from the ss adminiatation that they were taking his hard earned disabilility for imprisonment for a convinction of a crime. We own our land and are paying for a house and plan to get married soon. My question for u is if we get married now will his benefits be reinstated to maintain our family?

  12. Are you able to draw ssi and ssd at the same time I already draw ssd and I want to know if I can draw ssi to help with my income

    • Thank you for your question, Melody. Depending on the amount of your Social Security benefit and other income and resources, you might qualify for both Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI Federal Payment Standard for an individual in 2018 is $750/month.
      To see if you qualify for SSI benefits, call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will experience a shorter wait time if you call later during the day.

      • Jesse . My name is Donna from TN I have read what you wrote and I’m sorry I am going through the same thing this pay they gave us made things worse in my life because when they did everything went up .me and my son that is sick with cancer . Will have to pick ,eat or ,rent,. Had to let my car go last year it’s made it ten times harder on us . And it’s sad to say this is the USA. More less it’s we the people get out dated food go hungry and pray we make it to the next mouth . The government and the rich people don’t care about people like us they need people like us to keep them up. Soon it’s all going to come to an end I believe in my Lord Jesus. That’s what keep me going . Thing that can what like this dam wall fix the American people first That wall help the low income families .And it’s sad only they need to look at the mess they have done to American people .kids having kid people living off GOV BIG drug problem in the US thanks government . . I worked went to school worked hard in my life .I’m sick and was badly injured and I can’t work on ssi and I paid taxes like every one . So the mean man gets by with not wanting to show us his taxes and lives a dam good life because people like us have to pay for it. We go hungry . But they need that wall. Thing go up we pay or go with out . These are are sad times my God help help us all. We have to for give the thing that are GOV and are present do to the unfortunate ones .good luck we all need it.

  13. jkissane1@tampabay.rr.com
    We recieved our submission for my deceased brother Social Security last payment and you are asking for copy of certified letter of appointment. What is this and how do I satisfy your request? We paid all the funeral expenses and need this money. Please call us at 727-688-7050 or send me an email explaining what to do.
    Ellen Kissane
    Brothers Social Security was *** – ** – ***
    date of death Oct. 9th 2017
    We searched the ssa.gov site to no avail!!!

  14. My request: how do I satisfy your request for a certified letter of appointment. What is it and where do I find it? Is it a form and if so what is the number? The amount of his final check is approximately $1,300. Please let us know asap as you given us a date we need to satisfy your request.
    Ellen Kissane

  15. My SS increased by $24 this year which is more than has in all previous years put together. My rent, food, and power bill also went up, and I have a car note. So much for the increase. But for the 1st time, I got a letter from the food stamp office saying that my stamps were being cut because I received unearned income. They were talking about the SS increase. So now I am sitting here half starved. They cut over 3/4ths of my stamps. Now I am down to $43 per month in stamps. I am 72yrs old and have some physical issues. I know complaining won’t help because nobody of authority cares, but is there a department I can talk to and see why this happened. It simply is not fair to those of us that are elderly, or to anyone else that has to depend on SS to survive.

  16. Thanks a lot for providing individuals with an extraordinarily terrific opportunity to read critical reviews from this website. It can be very great and jam-packed with fun for me personally and my office fellow workers to visit your web site at the least three times in one week to find out the newest issues you will have. And of course, I am just usually contented with the special tips and hints you give. Selected 2 ideas in this post are unquestionably the most beneficial I’ve ever had.

    • Hi Frances, thank you for using our blog. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you. To make an appointment, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

      Keep in mind that you do not need an appointment to file for most benefits or appeal a disability decision. You can file for the following benefits online:
      Medicare; and

  17. Received text and recording stating from SS admin. and that legal enforcement action is filed on my social security number for criminal activity and before I get directed to Fed courthouse, I should call them back at 240-397-5173

  18. Hey my son is 25years old has cancer had brain surgery. Is now on ssi in his past he is still on probation any was they put him in jail for
    none payment to the court’s . Now my son goes in for three months and three week’s . Over none payment to the court’s he gets 770.00 he in jail and he still got his ck his rent light water and so on were being paid grate .Nov 9 throw Mar 5 he gets out . No the biggest thing I have the jail New he was sick with cancer mental illness never had his treatment after paying his bills money was give to him to get the things he needed now been reading on people that go to jail they stop everything ok .they say the get food and a place to do there time and they will take care of all medial .Dam this is bad nothing was done to help him. He goes to the ssi office to let them no I am out. Took the letter they stop his ck for April what the hell this out there his sick had to move in with me his mother .I’m on ssi said very low money we do get help for food they say we get to much .WHAT! I get 741.00 take 500.for rent 211 water and lights now .how in the hell are we going to eat \live?what can we do .

  19. I no a lot of people won’t like what I have to say whether or not we can make a difference .this is a sad life what little we get to live on day to day . I pray that there is some one out there that can make adjustments to the things we live in.I have hope people like me have so little and have to watch things come and go as the rich look down on me and my son . In time we will all be equal .money is what keeps use going . Seeing my son smile and one day become healthy live the life that a man what’s a family and kids. That just a dream I caree . Any more we don’t know what’s next. What’s tomorrow going to bring .

  20. I received a message on my phone concerning my social security retirement, wanting me to call this number (986-200-0997). Even though I did not call them back, I suspect it may be a fraudulent call.
    Bobby Powell

    • Hi, Bobby. Thanks for letting us know. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

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