Social Security Terms in Plain Language

" "Some of the terms and acronyms (an abbreviation of the first letters of words in a phrase) people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand all you need to know.

Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. In fact, The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.”

If a technical term or acronym that you don’t know slips into the conversation or appears in written material, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary.

Social Security’s acronyms function as verbal shorthand in your 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.

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

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.

If one of those unknown terms or acronyms comes up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the terminology can deepen your understanding of w Social Security works for you. Discover and share more on our website.


71 thoughts on “Social Security Terms in Plain Language

  1. If you know that acronyms and abbreviations are confusing to the older generation and the Plain Writing Act of 2010 is in affect, why do you use them? Do you really save that much time or are you basically lazy? It is hard to understand what is being said when you do not come right out and say it. Is it all about you with no consideration for your reader?

  2. I retired @ 62 and felt bad about that all the way until 68
    when I learned of my liver issues, now with little chance of seeing 80 early retirement was a smart move.

    • Here it a pat on the shoulder Richard. I am sorry bout medical issue. But I retired at 62 too. I went at 62 while I am in my best spirit. If you are comfortable and feel you can wait till 70 to retire …great but my personal experience, I am glad I went at 62 with no regrets.

  3. always when you post your articles, SPELL OUT the name then showing the abbreviation!

    this goes along way for the reader to follow with the remaining article. thanks!

  4. Hi, mon problème c’est la mémoire: je n’arrive pas à retenir la signification d’un mot longtemps. J’apprécie beaucoup votre aide.
    Mon état psychique, malheureusement m ‘oblige à me retirer

  5. I hope you will do everything in your power to make sure Social Security is around FOREVER for all the people who count on OUR BENEFITS, NOT ENTITLEMENTS., AS TRUMP IS TRYING TO MAKE IT!
    Please make it easier for Seniors to navigate through all the jargon for understanding what they need to know!
    Thank you for listening!

  6. Why isn’t the Social SecurityArt WRITTEN in plain language in the first false, AND Why isn’t ALL social Security employees, and notices written in plain language in the first place. Why don’t you make it a chargeable offense under the Plain language act of 2010 for anyone one in Social Security to use gobble gook, then EWKWTFY talking about and we won’t need a glossary.

  7. What does “a fizzy drink” mean in your sentence:

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

    More gobbledygook?

    • A cola is a soft drink, think Pepsi or Coke. A COLA is a Cost Of Living Adjustment. So you can buy more cola with your COLA…. hope this helped explain their attempt at humor. This stuff is such a pain in the rear, a little humor helps.

  8. I think social security Administration.
    I have a lot wrong name with people with wrong ss # but in my case that’s i can’t have my benefits i deserved from my records.ssa have to help prevent bad scammer people records.
    Thanks !

  9. I have been trying to sign into my social security. The web site states it will send me a code around 2 minutes and will expire in 10 minutes. I have tried twice today and each time the code arrives in 11 minutes. How can I sign in????

  10. The 35 years work history. I been in this country for 22 years and I have worked and still working so far 21 years. My retairement age is 67, and by that time I would cumulates total 30 years of work history. The calculation of my social security payment will be adding a $0 for the missing 5 years. I don’t think this is fair to all workers who immigrated lawfully to the USA and have worked many years in their country.
    In additional the Congress is trying to make changes to the social security with out a memorandum to all people who are social security eligible.

  11. Has the SSA updated the term for severe anxiety. PTSD is no longer grouped with anxiety in the DSM-5. PTSD is not an anxiety. Why are people getting disability for general anxiety disorder? General anxiety mean they haven’t meet all the requirement of the specific anxiety disorder. They haven’t even meet the minimum requirements for even mild agoraphobia.

    Most competitive jobs require the ability to travel to and from work and thus, would be precluded by extreme agoraphobiain which the person is incapable of leaving his or her home. However, a mild case of agoraphobia may not preclude the ability to travel to and from work or preclude work performed in the same (and thus, familiar) setting each day.

    Disability claimants learn to game the system and taught to say they are afraid to leave their home. They also say they are afraid to be around other people and in groups. You can easily tell the fraudster is trying to game the system. Psychiatrist/Psychologist will diagnose someone with a mild case of agoraphobia, but they will definitely diagnose someone with a severe case of agoraphobia.

  12. The Substantial Gainful Activity(SGA) is only $1220/month. Most state minimum wage is more than this amount and some are double.

    They can work half as much part time and perform SGA. The State’s minimum wage should be taken into account.

    Lawyers have been able to scam the SSA saying if their client missed three days a month, then they wouldn’t be able to perform SGA.

    They would not not be able to keep a full time job, but they can find a part time job. There are plenty of employers offering part time jobs with flexible hours because they don’t have to pay benefits. Many employers including fast food restaurants are always accepting applications.

    There are so many people receiving mental disability or applying for mental disability that there is a shortage of psychiatrist and psychologist to treat them. The shortage of psychiatrist and psychologist has even affected the amount CE exams done in Tennessee and across the country.

    The standard to get approved for mental disability is so low that the millions are applying each year. Mental disability has become a defacto lifetime job opportunity where they don’t have to work and get paid.

    The economy can’t support the number of people claiming to be disabled evidence by the shortage of psychiatrist and psychologist.

    • I have loved ones who are honest and truly struck down with severe lifetime anxiety illness. Sure don’t appreciate your less than empathic or even thoughtful assessment of those who suffer with this nearly untreatable problem. And, why is it so difficult to understand that millions suffer from this problem?

  13. The US population only grew by 17% since 2000, but the total number of people receiving mental disability benefits grew by over 50%.

    Mental disability affects a ceratin percentage of the population which hasn’t change, so there is a disparity in the amount of people becoming disabled on social security in the US.

    The number of people claiming to be mentally disabled grew, so fast that there is a shortage of psychiatrist and psychologist.

  14. why does my local SSA office refuse to acknowledge that since I am born before 1954 that i can file a RESTRICTIVE BENEFIT APPLICATION although some say they are aware and others say there is no such thing and ask me to prove it to them. The only way i was able to apply was to have Filing a Restrictive Application in the Remarks section of the application. I cannot get any written proof that it was processed as such. SSA has three different letters/documents that show different names that I applied for a spousal benefit which gives me much to worry about, or should i not be concerned?

  15. Sign me up for blogs..thank you.
    Wondering cost of living increase…is that applied every year in October? Where and when are when are we notified of the amount???

  16. is there any update on the Secure Act which from what I understand has passed the House and need Senate approval. This is suppose to delay forced 401 withdrawal until 72 1/2 . Which could be nice.

  17. Why is the middle class being charged so much for Medicare? Thought the steep prices would not apply to middle class. How sad. Really cuts into cost of living especially when it’s based on past and not current.

  18. Office 365 is a lot of cloud-based programming by Microsoft (MS).
    Contingent upon the arrangement or membership you buy, it might incorporate the most recent variant of Exchange Email,
    SharePoint and One-Drive for record and online stockpiling,
    Office Suite (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams or
    Skype for Business).

  19. HA – Hospitals & Asylums

    Appoint me Public Trustee to sign my ‘Message of the Public Trustee’ in the 2020 Annual Report of the OASI and DI Trust Funds, to tax the rich and state employees the full 12.4% OASDI tax on all their income, to create an SSI Trust Fund, to end child poverty by 2020, and all poverty by 2030

  20. Here it a pat on the shoulder Richard. I am sorry bout medical issue. But I retired at 62 too. I went at 62 while I am in my best spirit. If you are comfortable and feel you can wait till 70 to retire …great but my personal experience, I am glad I went at 62 with no regrets.

  21. Appoint me Public Trustee to sign my ‘Message of the Public Trustee’ in the 2020 Annual Report of the OASI and DI Trust Funds, to tax the rich and state employees the full 12.4% OASDI tax on all their income, to create an SSI Trust Fund, to end child..

  22. I am a 100% Disabled American Veteran and as such I get all of my medical through the VA. Do I still need to Medicare A & B ?

    • Hi Richard. Thank you for your question. Before you decide to cancel your Medicare coverage, you should contact the Department of Defense or a military health, or Veterans Administration (VA) benefits advisor for more information. In some instances, the law requires TRICARE (VA Healthcare) beneficiaries who are entitled to Medicare Part A to enroll in Medicare Part B to retain their TRICARE benefits. Please visit the TRICARE web page or contact your military health benefits advisor for more information. You should also call the Medicare toll-free number, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) regarding this decision. We hope this information helps.

  23. I retired in 2009. I worked for post office user fers
    I signed a and b originally After 3 yrs I was informed that since I had postal insurance , I didn’t need part b. So I cancelled part b.
    Now I want to change my ins. From postal to Medicare

    I filled out form 0938-0787. Request for employment info

    I went to as office to sign up
    I was told I had to wait until open season on January
    I wanted to change my ins now because open for postal ins is now

    So what I’m asking Is it true I have to wait until Jan 2020?

    Any information would help. Thank you

  24. I have 2 questions, #1
    I’ve been receiving Ssi for 8 years, can I receive more money ? After Medicare my benefit is $1071.
    #2 I have been divorced from my ex for 15 years, he has not remarried. Can I receive his benefits in addition to mine ?

  25. Thank u for clearing up some of the mumbo jumbo up. I wish all government offices would implement such co consideration to those of us that are clueless. Three cheers.

  26. My understanding 2 additional benefits when I filed may have been available to me when I originally filed that I was not aware of..Vietnam era honorable discharge military service .small increase.also supplemental based on income.may be called s.s.i.not sure please advise.sincerly danny ray gardner

  27. I was married 40 years. I receive DSSI, she received SSI. Am I entitled to her benefits? She passed away about 3 yrs. ago.

  28. Why is the government using my social security money? Social Security was intended to be a savings account for our ( the citizens ) retirement. Did we ( the citizens ) get asked if it was okay to do that?
    Would just like to know.
    Just explain it to me in plain English.


    James Morgan.

  29. I have a general question regarding my Social Security account. I opted to receive my benefits last year, but I am still working, drawing W-2 wages. Why am I required to pay into Social Security although I am receiving social security benefits? It seems to me to be counter intuitive?
    Where does this contribution go? I don’t receive any benefit for paying into an account now that I am drawing my benefit. thanks.

  30. My wife will turn 66 in February 2020. When does she apply to receive her social security payments ? She is already receiving her Medicare. Thanks !

  31. Having trouble signing in to my ss acct…tried my username & password a dozen times & ways. Don’t want to create a new one. What gives?

  32. i’m 65 years old right now, next year march 66yrs. old. I was born 1954 , still working full
    time. Am i still on a $17,620 limit next year after march?

  33. Thank you for this information. I have a question and hope you can help me. Today I received a notice how to opt-out of getting notices from SS by mail. My problem is the opposite……somehow I inadvertently opted out a year or so ago BY MISTAKE. I am 80 years old and really want to get my notice by mail. It’s what I understand. Can you help me with this? Thank you.

  34. If you want to stop filing taxes, how do you go about it? We don’t collect enough to file. How do I do this by the end of 2019?
    Thank You!

  35. I’m appalled to hear by rejecting paper mail in favor of digital communication now means any new policy changes that may affect seniors now means “come and find it” without any insight as to what if anything may affect their benefits. Is this not counterintuitive of the cost savings of paper communication in favor of digital? If one has any expectation of being informed will now be required to consent to paper mail. This new policy smells of hiding the ball until it’s too late to adapt. Let’s not be ignorant to the fact the internet is not available to all. Or is there a reasonable expectation for the elderly to know or learn the required skills. Sends the message SSA or government as a whole is avoiding announcing something unpleasant.

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