Social Security Glossary and Acronyms

Glossary and Acronyms


Annual Earnings Test  

Prior to FRA, benefits are withheld if you exceed and earnings threshold. This is a 2 tiered test which consists of different reductions.


Adjusted Reduction Factor

An adjustment of the reduction factor is made at FRA to determine your benefit payable for the month you reach full retirement age and later months. This adjustment is applied in January on the following year.


Average Index Monthly Earnings

All past earnings are index and brought forward to near current levels based on average wages during the year you attain age 60. Wages at age 60 and later are considered at face value. The top 35 years are averaged and divided by 12. This value is used in the PIA formula Calculation.


Cost of Living Adjustment

Increase in the benefit amount to keep payments in line with inflation. Based on the CPI-W.


Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers

Annual measures used to determine COLA for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. Calculated on a monthly basis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



This provision states that if you file for spousal benefits or a retirement benefit, you must file for the other in the month that it becomes available. For beneficiaries born on or before 1-1-1954 the deeming provision only applies until you reach FRA, which allows this age group to file a restricted application for only spousal benefits at that time.


Disability Insurance Benefits  

Benefits payable when you become disabled.


Disability Family Maximum

The maximum monthly amount that can be paid on a disabled worker's earnings record. Auxiliary benefits are reduced proportionally if benefits exceed the maximum.


Delayed Retirement Credit  

Credits received for each month in which you do not receive benefits after your FRA up to age 70. Currently, the credit is up to 8% annually.


Earnings Test

Social Security withholds benefits if you are under full retirement age and your earned income exceeds the threshold, called a retirement earnings test exempt amount. Once you reach FRA, the earnings test is eliminated and your monthly benefit percentage will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld. 


Family Maximum

The maximum amount of benefits that are payable on one record. The family maximum is based on a formula similar to the PIA formula calculation. The maximum is not affected by the workers delayed retirement credits. Auxiliary benefits are reduced proportionally if benefits exceed the maximum.


Full Retirement Age

The age in which you first become eligible for an unreduced benefit amount.


Government Pension Offset  

The Government Pension Offset applies not only to government workers, but to any worker who collects a pension for work for which they did not also pay into the Social Security system. This offset reduces the Social Security spousal and survivor benefits by ⅔ of a non-Social Security covered pension.


Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse

Allows a divorced spouse to take spousal benefits on their eligible ex-spouse without regard to whether their ex has claimed benefits, or whether their ex exceeds the exempt amount for the Retirement Earnings Test.


Non-Social Security Covered Pension

Pension in which an employee did not pay Social Security taxes while paying into a pension.


Number Holder (Wage Earner)

Worker that has earned a Social Security benefit.


Primary Insurance Amount

The basis of your own retirement benefit. The PIA is calculated in the year you turn 62, and will increase each year regardless of election by the annual Cost of Living Adjustment. The PIA can also increase due to continued work after you become eligible for benefits. The PIA is also used to derive auxiliary benefits.


Quarter of Coverage (Credits)

Used to determine whether a worker qualifies for Social Security. You can earn 4 quarters or "credits" per year. You need 40 credits to qualify for retirement benefits. If you become disabled at a younger age you can qualify for disability benefits with fewer credits.


Reduction Factor (Actuarial Reduction Factor)

Reduction for filing for benefits prior to your full retirement age. The reduction will depend on the type of benefit taken early. Factors vary between retirement, spousal, and widows benefits.


Retirement Insurance Benefit  

Benefit based on your own earnings record.


Supplemental Security Income

Benefits paid to the disabled or elderly who have limited resources and income. Not funded through FICA taxes but through the general fund.


Windfall Elimination Provision  

Reduction in Social Security benefits of people who qualify for both a Social Security benefit and a non-Social Security covered pension based on their own earnings.


Widow Insurance Benefit

Benefits paid to a surviving spouse on a deceased workers earning record.


Widow(er) Limit

Provision of Social Security establishes caps on the benefit amounts of widow(er)s whose deceased spouse filed for early retirement benefits.


Widow(er)'s Indexing

A calculation to bring the widows benefit to near current levels.