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A Few Words on Social Security’s Acronyms


Many of us have now heard of the story of the aged aunt who means to send ‘lots of love’ but instead ‘laughs out loud’ at the news of the death of a loved one. The LOL snafu has hopefully finally been universally resolved but there is no denying that the acronym causes confusion. Indeed, it has come to demonstrate a way of determining those who are in the know from those who are left out in the cold, attempting fruitlessly to work out what on earth those letters might actually stand for. SSA (Social Security Administration) has a manual for staff, POMS (Program Operations Manual System), which as the full title would suggest, sets out the rules and regulations for everything that SSA does. POMS is so full of acronyms that reading it can be like trying to decipher a foreign language. While there is little to be gained by knowing all of the acronyms (one tiny subsection under ‘disability determination reviews’ lists as many as 68 of them just within that section) below is a list of some common terms and a brief explanation of what each one means.

BWE (Blind Work Expenses): A work incentive for SSI recipients who have been determined blind. SSA deducts any expenses related to work when calculating the beneficiary’s countable income.

CDB (Childhood Disability Benefits): A Title II benefit like SSDI. Beneficiaries who were determined disabled before the age of 22 receive payments based on the work record of a parent who has retired, become disabled, or died.

CDR (Continuing Disability Review): SSA conducts these reviews every few years to determine if a beneficiary is still eligible for SSDI or SSI.

DAC (Disabled Adult Child): Another term for CDB (see above).

DOE (Date of Entitlement): The date that a recipient began to receive benefits.

DWB (Disabled Widow(er)’s Benefits): Another kind of Title II benefit like CDB and SSDI. This is a payment based off the spouse’s work record for widows and widowers who are over 50 and who are disabled.

EPE (Extended Period of Eligibility): An SSDI work incentive. This is the period of 36 months after the end of the Trial Work Period when you can regain SSDI income without any need to re-apply if your earnings, having been in excess of the SGA threshold then drop below that mark.

FBR (Federal Benefit Rate): The figure for the most SSI any individual or couple can receive each month. In 2018 those figures are $750 and $1,125 respectively.

IRWE (Impairment Related Work Expenses): A work incentive for both SSI and SSDI. When calculating eligibility for benefits SSA deducts the costs of any expenses that are needed for work and that are also related to an impairment.

PASS (Plan for Achieving Self-Support): Primarily an SSI work incentive. It allows beneficiaries to set aside income over a period of time to achieve a long-term work goal that both could not be achieved without significant expenditure, and that will eventually lead to financial independence.

SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity): As a part of the determination to see if someone meets the definition of ‘disabled’ SSA looks at SSDI beneficiaries working after the trial work period and SSI/SSDI applicants to see if they are able to work at SGA levels. In 2018 if a non-blind applicant has countable earned income over $1,180 a month then they would be determined not disabled.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance): A Title II benefit for disabled individuals who had achieved enough work credits prior to becoming disabled.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income): A Title XVI benefit for disabled, aged or blind individuals with limited income and resources.

TWP (Trial Work Period): An SSDI work incentive that allows beneficiaries to test their ability to work without any immediate effect on their SSDI eligibility. Someone can earn over the TWP monthly threshold ($850 in 2018) on nine separate occasions before SSA looks at her ability to perform SGA.

UWA (Unsuccessful Work Attempt): An SSDI work incentive that can be applied by SSA representatives who note that a beneficiary attempted to work at SGA levels but was unsuccessful at maintaining that level within 6 months of starting work.

 For any more information on any of the above or to find out about other acronyms go straight to the source at https://www.ssa.gov/