Social Security Terms in Plain Language

August 22, 2019 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: July 16, 2021

" "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.

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About the Author

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner


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  8. Margaret W.

    This article helped me to understand different terms related to Social Security. The important terms mentioned in the article are
    PIA – primary insurance amount
    FRA – full retirement age
    DRCs – delayed retirement credits
    COLA – Cost of Living Adjustment

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