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


  1. Rosalina

    Thank you!

  2. About C.

    Thank you and keep giving us the information for all to use and enjoy. ´´You have come a long way´´

  3. Akram B.


    • About C.


  4. Joe F.

    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.

  5. Patricia M.

    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!

    • cathy

      That is the Democrats who refer to it as and entitlement

      • Patricia

        Cathy you are mistaken…

  6. mouloud

    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

  7. BETTY G.

    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!

  8. Richard K.

    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.

    • Ricky

      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.

  9. Michael B.

    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?

  10. Mikel D.

    What are you doing about Trump saying he is going to take 25 million over the next ten years?

    • Patrick M.

      When and where did Trump say he was taking any money out of SS?? Congress has to approve of any money taken out!!

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