Decoding SSDI AcronymsNavigating a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim can feel overwhelming. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a lot of acronyms and abbreviations. To help you make sense of this alphabet soup, refer to our list of Social Security terms and jargon below. If you ever have any questions about benefits or applications whatsoever, reach out to Keefe Disability Law. Our team of disability attorneys is happy to help you. 

The ABCs of SSDI Abbreviations and Terms

From the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in an appeals court to substantial gainful activity (SGA) and vocational experts (VEs), keep this glossary of SSDI terms bookmarked and on hand.


  • AC - Appeals Council, the final level of SSA administrative review
  • ADL - Activities of daily living, basic skills required for personal care
  • AIME - Average indexed monthly earnings based on up to 35 of your highest income earning years
  • ALJ - Administrative Law Judge, makes rulings on application and benefit decisions
  • Authorized representative - Someone you formally appoint to represent you in SSDI proceedings


  • Beneficiary - The person who receives Social Security Disability Insurance benefits
  • Blue Book - The Social Security Administration’s official list of qualifying disabilities and medical conditions
  • BWO - Blind work expenses, reasonable expenses to exclude from earned income


  • COLA - Cost of living adjustment to keep pace with inflation
  • Compassionate allowance - A program to fast-track applications for some individuals
  • Computation years - Used to calculate a Social Security benefit amount
  • Consultative examination (CE) - A medical exam or test to get more information about a claim
  • CPI-W - Consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers


  • DDA - Drug addiction and/or alcoholism
  • DDS - Disability Determination Services, a state agency that reviews disability applications for the SSA
  • DE - Disability examiner who makes the initial decision on an applicant’s eligibility
  • Decision notice - Official letter for SSA explaining their decision on your application; award letter or denial letter
  • Dependent - A family member who may qualify for benefits based on a worker’s record
  • DI - Disability Insurance
  • Disability - A severe injury, illness, or condition that prevents someone from working for at least a year or is likely to result in their death
  • Disability benefits - Monthly payments to someone with a disability
  • DNP - Do not pay
  • DOB - Date of birth
  • DSI - Date last insured, five years after stopping employment
  • DSM - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


  • Early retirement benefits - Reduced benefits for claiming retirement benefits between age 62 and full retirement age
  • EEA - Earliest eligibility age to apply for Social Security benefits
  • Eligible - Meeting the requirements to receive a Social Security benefit
  • Entitled - Proven to be eligible to receive benefits and should receive them
  • ER - Earnings record


  • FICA - Federal Insurance Contributions Act
  • FICA tax - Payroll tax levied under FICA to fund Social Security and Medicare
  • FOIA - Freedom of Information Act
  • FRA - Full retirement age, rising incrementally to age 67 
  • FY - Fiscal year


  • Gainful activity - Employment or self-employment activity to earn an income


  • Hearing - A formal appeal before an administrative law judge
  • HOA - Hearing office administrator
  • HOM - Hearing office manager
  • HOSA - Hearing office systems administrator


  • Listing of impairments - Official list of qualifying conditions in the SSA Blue Book
  • LSDP - Lump sum death payment to the survivor of a Social Security beneficiary


  • Maximum taxable earnings - Amount of gross income subject to Social Security taxes
  • Medicaid - A federally-funded health insurance program for low-income individuals and families
  • Medicare - A government health care program mostly for seniors aged 65 and above
    • Medicare Part A - Hospital insurance
    • Medicare Part B - Health insurance
    • Medicare Part C - Medicare Advantage program, an additional premium or limited choice of private health insurance providers
    • Medicare Part D - Prescription drug coverage 
  • MRFC - Mental residual functional capacity, assessing a person’s mental functioning in a workplace environment


  • NAWI - National Average Wage Index
  • NH - Number holder, another term for the wage earner


  • OASDI - Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance, the formal name for Social Security programs
  • ODO - Office of Disability Operation
  • OIG - Office of Inspector General
  • OWCP - Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs


  • PA - Privacy Act
  • PIA - Primary insurance amount equal to the full Social Security retirement benefit amount
  • PII - Personally identifiable information
  • POMS - Program Operations Manual System for SSA to make benefit determinations
  • Protective filing date - The date you first contact SSA about a benefit application
  • PRW - Past relevant work


  • QA - Quality assurance
  • QMB - Qualified Medicare beneficiary 


  • RFC - Residual functional capacity, an assessment of a person’s ability to function in the workplace
  • RFH - Request for hearing
  • RFR - Request for reconsideration
  • RPO - Regional program officer


  • SECA - Self-Employment Contribution Act
  • SECA tax - Payroll tax for self-employed individuals under SECA
  • SGA - Substantial gainful activity, maximum income to qualify for disability benefits
  • SSA - Social Security Administration, the federal agency that runs social programs like SSDI, SSI, and Medicare
  • SSDI - Social Security Disability Insurance, a benefit program for disabled workers
  • SSI - Supplemental Security Income, a needs-based benefit program for low-income individuals
  • SSN - Social Security Number, a nine-digit number to identify individuals for Social Security
  • SSOARS - Social Security Online Accounting and Reporting System


  • Title 2 / II - Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Title 16 / XVI - Supplemental Security Income
  • Trial work period (TWP) - A nine-month period when SSDI beneficiaries can return to work without losing benefits
  • TY - Tax year


  • UI - Unearned income or unemployment insurance
  • UP - Underpayment
  • USC - United States Code
  • UWA - Unsuccessful work attempt


  • VE - Vocational expert who may testify at a disability hearing
  • VR - Vocational rehabilitation 


  • Wage earner - The person whose work history is being used for benefit eligibility 
  • WC - Workers’ Compensation programs to pay benefits to injured or ill workers 
  • Work credits - Units earned toward benefit entitlement based on annual earnings, up to four credits per year

Understanding Eligibility Requirements for Disability Benefits

At its most basic level, the qualification requirements for SSDI are:

  • Unable to work due to a disability that isn’t short-term
  • Younger than full retirement age
  • Disabled for at least 12 months or expected to end in death
  • Meet the SSA’s definition of disability
  • Have sufficient work credits

To meet the SSA’s definition of disability, you have two main options. You can meet a Blue Book listing. Or, your RFC assessment equals a Blue Book listing. Consult with John L. Keefe or Patrick Hartwig to discuss if you may be eligible for benefit payments. We can help you navigate the complex SSDI application process with confidence.

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law