Courtesy: Social Security Administration
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 totally new vocabulary to you?
Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using plain, easy-to-understand language. But if a technical term or acronym (an abbreviation using 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 are 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 will 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 will usually mean 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 a 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.
Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawaii.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: I received an email that said it is from Social Security, but I’m not so sure. They want me to reply with my Social Security number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name for “verification.” Did it really come from Social Security?
Answer: No. Social Security will not send you an email asking you to share your personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth or other private information. Beware of such scams — the person who sent it is after your information so they can use it for their own benefit. When in doubt, or if you have any questions about correspondence you receive from Social Security, contact your local Social Security office, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to see whether we really need any information from you.
Question: My husband has been in poor health for some time now — doctors recently diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I heard that Social Security has a “fast track” for some people who are disabled. Can you tell me about it?
Answer: We have two processes to “fast track” applications for disability benefits. Our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. There are dozens of different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, including ALS, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and see the full list of conditions at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm