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Social Security A to Z Glossary

Everything you need to know about the program that provides benefits to so many


PIA: See primary insurance amount (PIA).

POMS: See Program Operations Manual System (POMS).

Primary insurance amount (PIA): An amount equal to your Social Security benefit at full retirement age. The PIA is the basis used to compute benefits that may go to you or your family members. It's based on a progressive formula applied to the average indexed monthly earnings.

Program Operations Manual System (POMS): Provides guidance for Social Security Administration employees in making determinations about benefits.

Progressivity: Measured in different ways, the feature of Social Security designed to make benefits relatively more generous for low earners than for high earners. Progressivity is achieved mainly through the formula used to calculate the primary insurance amount.

Protective filing date: The date you contact the Social Security Administration about making an application for benefits. The protective filing date may help you gain back benefits if much time passes before the application is complete.

Reconsideration: See request for reconsideration.

Reduction factor: The monthly amount by which benefits may be reduced if claimed before full retirement age.

Replacement rate: The percentage of your income prior to retirement that your Social Security benefits will replace. The replacement rate is typically about 40 percent for average earners, more for low earners, less for high earners.

Representative payee: An individual authorized to receive and manage Social Security benefits on behalf of a beneficiary who is unable to handle his or her own financial affairs. Payees must use the benefits to meet the needs of the beneficiary, save anything extra and keep records.

Request for reconsideration: In most states, the first step in challenging an adverse decision on your application for benefits. This step is usually required before you may request a hearing with an administrative law judge.

Residual functional capacity: An individual's remaining ability to function in the workplace, despite the limitations of a physical or mental condition. This can be an important factor in assessing whether an individual can work or is disabled.

Retired-worker benefits: See retirement benefits.

Retirement age: See full retirement age (FRA) and early retirement age.

Retirement benefits: Payments made to workers who have earned Social Security coverage, starting as early as age 62. The Social Security Administration sometimes calls such benefits retirement insurance benefits or retired-worker benefits.

Retirement earnings test: See earnings test.

Retirement insurance benefits (RIB): See retirement benefits.

Retroactive benefits: Benefit payments predating the time of application that sometimes may be made to individuals older than full retirement age, the disabled and certain dependents.

RIB: See retirement benefits.

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