GLOSSARY OF SOCIAL SECURITY/ DISABILITY TERMS


A

Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) – refers to the amount used to calculate social security benefits when one reaches age 62 or became disabled (or died) after 1978.

Appeal – one of the stages in a social security/ disability claim wherein a claimant is given the chance to ask or request for a review of the case.

Application for Benefits – the initial step to receive benefits in a claim

Award letters – letters received by claimants 12 weeks from the date they are approved. These letters generally give information on the amount they will receive in monthly benefits and the amount they will receive in past benefits or back pay.

B

Base Year - A worker's (wage earner's) base years for computing Social Security benefits are the years after 1950 up to the year of entitlement to retirement or disability insurance benefits. For a survivor's claim, the base years include the year of the worker's death. See Retirement Benefits.

Benefit Verification Letter – a letter sent by SSA which verifies the amount an individual receives each month in social security benefits and/or Supplemental Security income. This letter is normally issued after a request by the claimant or his/ her representative.

Benefits – These refer to the five types of social security benefits that include retirement, disability, family (dependents), survivors, and Medicare benefits. The retirement, family (dependents), survivor and disability programs pay monthly cash benefits, and Medicare provides medical coverage.

C

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – the adjustment made to Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to keep pace with inflation or cost of living increases.

Computation Years - are the years with highest earnings selected from the "base years.” By adding the total earnings in the computation years and dividing it by the number of months, one can get the average monthly earning (AME).

Credits (Social Security Credits) –This refers to the credits earned as a person works and pays taxes which is counted to his/her eligibility for future social security benefits. A person can earn a maximum of four credits a year hence it is also previously called “Quarters of Coverage”. Most people need 40 credits to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to qualify for disability or survivors benefits.

D

Decision Notice (Award Letter or Denial Letter) – an official letter explaining the decision of the SSA, including the benefits payable and the amount the one will get each month.

Direct Deposit - the standard way in which Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is received. The money is often sent electronically to an account in a financial institution such as banks, trust companies, savings and loan association, etc.

Disability Benefits – benefits that qualified persons may receive provided he/ she is under full retirement age, has enough credits and has severe medical impairment that prevents him/her from having substantial work for a year or more and the condition is expected to result in death.

Documents (Proofs) – these include official or original forms and certified copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, W2 forms, tax returns, deeds, etc., which is submitted by individuals applying for benefits and services.

E

Earnings Record - A chronological history of the amount of money you earned each year during your working lifetime. The credits you earned remain on your Social Security record even when you change jobs or have no earnings.

Evidence (Proofs) - The documents you must submit to support a factor of entitlement or payment amount.

F

Family Benefits (Dependent Benefits) – refer to benefits that the spouse and children may also receive when you are eligible for retirement or disability benefits

FICA Tax - FICA stands for "Federal Insurance Contributions Act." It’s the tax withheld from your salary or self-employment income that funds the Social Security and Medicare programs.

Full Retirement Age - The age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits, which is at 65.

H

Health Insurance (Medicare) – this refers to the federal health insurance program fort the elderly, younger people with disabilities and those with permanent kidney failure or End Stage Renal Disease.

I

Insured Status – the status reached by a worker who has worked and earned enough social security credits to be eligible for retirement or disability benefits and enables the dependents to be entitled to the same benefits due to the worker’s retirement, disability or death.

L

Lawful Alien Status – a special permit given to certain people admitted to the US and who are granted permanent authorization to work by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (formerly INS) or admitted on a temporary basis with USCIS or INS authorization to work.

Lump Sum Death Payment - A one-time payment of $255 paid in addition to any monthly survivors benefits that are due. This benefit is paid only to your widow/widower or minor children.

M

Maximum Earnings – the maximum amount of earning counted in any calendar year and used when computing for social security benefit.

Medicaid - a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for people with low incomes and limited resources

Medical experts – refers to the doctors or physicians who provide informed testimony regarding a claimant’s medical condition and records in connection with his disability claim

Month of Election – this refers to the month in which benefits will start in a retirement claim.

O

Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) – refers to the Social Security programs that provide monthly cash benefits to qualified persons and their dependents when they retire, including their surviving dependents, and to disabled workers and their dependents.

ODAR hearings – these refer to the hearings conducted by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review of the Social Security Administration which was established to help review claimants’ disability cases

Overpayment – an overpayment occurs when a claimant receives more than the amount that he/she regularly receives in social security benefit.

P

Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) – this refers to the monthly amount payable to a retired worker who begins receiving benefits at full retirement age or for someone who is disabled and has never received a retirement benefit reduced for age.

Protective Filing Date – the date when a claimant contacts the SSA to inquire about filing for benefits

R

Retirement Age (Minimum) - The minimum age for retirement—age 62 for workers, and age 60 for widows or widowers. You can choose a reduced benefit anytime before you reach full retirement age.

Retroactive Benefits (Back Pay) - Monthly benefits that you may be entitled to before the month you actually apply, if you meet the requirements.

Retirement Benefit – refers to the money payable to a worker upon retirement provided he/she has enough Social Security credits.

S

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – a federal insurance program funded by social security taxes to help the disabled or those who are unable to work for a year or more due to their disability

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – this is the federal supplemental income program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes) to help the elderly, the blind, and disabled people who have limited income and resources by providing monthly cash payments to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter

Survivors Benefits - benefits paid to widows/widower, the children and also parents and ex-spouse

V

Vocational experts – refers to persons in various occupations who provide input or information in disability hearings and review

W

Wage Earner - A person who earns Social Security credits while working for wages or self-employment income; also sometimes referred to as the "Number Holder" or "Worker"

Wages - all payment for services performed for an employer. Wages do not have to be cash. The cash value of all compensation paid to an employee in any form other than cash is also considered wages, unless the form of payment is specifically not covered under the Social Security Act

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