It’s no secret that the Social Security Administration (SSA) loves a good abbreviation. But it can be difficult for anyone unfamiliar with Social Security to know what they’re talking about. You may read online about “SSI vs. DIB” or hear your attorney casually mention “SGA”. What do those abbreviations mean? We’re going to break down the most common abbreviations.
For definitions of more Social Security disability terms, be sure to check out our glossary.
ADLs: Activities of Daily Living
Your activities of daily living are just one way in which Social Security gauges the severity of your disability. Learning more about what you do every day helps Social Security determine just how debilitating your disability is and whether or not it truly prevents you from returning to work or engaging in substantial gainful activity.
ALJ: Administrative Law Judge
An administrative law judge is an independent judge assigned to your case. As experts in Social Security law, they can review your file and listen to your testimony before making a final decision on your claim. This is who reviews your claim if you choose to request a hearing.
CDR: Continuing Disability Review
Once you are approved for disability benefits, expect to undergo a continuing disability review every few years. This is how Social Security makes sure that your medical condition has not improved.
Typically, you’ll undergo a continuing disability review every three to five years, but if your condition is expected to improve, it may be more often. Conversely, if your condition is not expected to improve or is expected to get worse, you may not have a continuing disability review for more than five years.
CE: Consultative Exam
During a consultative exam, an independent doctor will see you instead of your family doctor or specialist. This is typically done if your own doctor’s medical records aren’t enough to allow Social Security to make a determination on your condition.
COLA: Cost of Living Adjustment
When you’re approved for disability benefits, you likely won’t receive the same amount of money forever. In order to keep up with inflation, Social Security benefits increase by a small percentage each year. This is known as a cost of living adjustment. When there is no inflation, there is no cost of living adjustment.
DDB: Disability Determination Bureau
Although run at the state level, the Disability Determination Bureau is a federally funded government agency that makes decisions on initial applications and reviews requests for reconsideration. Because it receives funding from the federal government, it must abide by federal regulations. That means that no matter where you live in the U.S., the Disability Determination Bureau will follow the same guidelines to make a decision on your claim.
DIB: Disability Insurance Benefits
Disability insurance benefits, also known as Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), is one of the two programs Social Security runs for disability. To qualify for disability insurance benefits, you must have a solid work history in which you paid Social Security taxes. In addition, you must also meet Social Security’s medical requirements for disability.
DLI: Date Last Insured
Your date last insured is when your work credits expire. You must prove that you became disabled before your date last insured in order to qualify for DIB. Your date last insured has no effect on when you choose to actually apply for disability; you can apply long after your date last insured so long as you were disabled before your date last insured.
FMAX: Family Maximum
The family maximum refers to the maximum amount of benefits all members of a family can receive based on one family member’s work history.
ME: Medical Expert
A medical expert helps the administrative law judge understand your medical records. They may also give testimony on your condition regarding your residual functional capacity and give their opinion on whether or not your medical condition is equal to a condition on the Listing of Impairments.
ODAR: Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
Also known as the hearings office, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is where administrative law judges work. When you file a request for hearing, your file is sent to an ODAR office.
PDB: Past Due Benefits
Your past due benefits (also known as back pay or retroactive benefits) include the monthly benefits that accrued while you were waiting for Social Security to make a decision on your case. You may receive a lump-sum check when you are approved for your past due benefits.
PIA: Primary Insurance Amount
Your primary insurance amount is the amount of money you receive each month if you are approved for DIB.
PRW: Past Relevant Work
Your past relevant work refers to any work you did within the 15 years before you became disabled. Social Security considers this work history relevant to their decision and will gather information regarding your job duties and any skills you may have learned at these jobs.
QC: Quarter of Coverage
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn work credits. Since you can only earn up to four work credits per year, a quarter of coverage is equal to one work credit.
RFC: Residual Functional Capacity
Your residual functional capacity refers to the extent of your capabilities despite your physical and/or mental disabilities. It looks at specific work restrictions such as remembering, sitting, standing, and lifting.
SGA: Substantial Gainful Activity
To qualify for disability benefits, you cannot be engaging in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity is measured by a certain level of monthly income. In 2017, engaging in substantial gainful activity means you earn at least $1,170 a month or $1,950 a month if you’re blind.
SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security disability insurance is another term for disability insurance benefits (DIB).
SSI: Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental security income is a needs-based disability program. Your household must meet strict income limitations and you must meet certain medical requirements in order to qualify. However, you do not have to have worked or paid Social Security taxes to qualify for supplemental security income.
UWA: Unsuccessful Work Attempt
Once approved for disability, many people try to return to work. However, they’re not always successful. In order to not punish people for attempting to return to work, Social Security has developed what’s called an unsuccessful work attempt. Typically, you must first have a period of no work activity related to your disability. Then, your work attempt must be shorter than six months, and your work attempt must end because of your medical condition. If your failed return to work meets all of the requirements, it will be counted as an unsuccessful work attempt and will not jeopardize your disability benefits.