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.


38 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?

  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.

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