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Social Security A to Z Glossary

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


Taxable maximum: The maximum amount of earnings to which the Social Security payroll tax can be applied. Also, the maximum amount of earnings that can be used in the Social Security benefit calculation. The taxable maximum was set at $113,700 for 2013. Also known as contribution and benefit base. See also maximum earnings.

Treating doctor: A physician or psychologist who treats an individual who has applied for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration gives significant weight to the observations of a treating doctor.

Trial work period: A span of nine months in which someone getting disability benefits may work without interruption of benefits. During the trial work period, the restriction on substantial gainful activity is not enforced.

Trust funds: Separate accounts in the U.S. Treasury in which are deposited the taxes received under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA). The money used to pay Social Security benefits is paid out of the trust funds. The main trust funds are the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund.

Trustees report: The detailed, annual disclosure of Social Security's finances, released by its board of trustees. The six-member board consists of the secretary of the Treasury, the commissioner of Social Security, the secretary of health and human services, the secretary of labor and two representatives of the public.


VE: See vocational expert (VE).

Vocational expert (VE): A government-paid occupational expert who may testify at a disability hearing about the type of skill and exertion required to perform an applicant's previous job or other jobs to determine whether the applicant can still do his or her previous work or other work.


Wage earner: The individual on whose record a claim for benefits is made, including claims by dependents. Also known as worker or breadwinner.

Wages: All payments for services performed for an employer. Wages do not have to be cash. The cash value of all compensation paid to an employee in any form other than cash is also considered wages, unless the form of payment is specifically not covered under the Social Security Act.

Waiver of recovery: A request to toss out a Social Security overpayment determination, if you think such a determination is unfair.

Widow(er) benefit: See survivor benefits.

Windfall elimination provision (WEP): A rule that may reduce Social Security retirement benefits for individuals who earned pensions through government work not covered by Social Security. This provision reduces Social Security benefits for many older government workers who were under the Civil Service Retirement System.

Work credits: See credits.

Worker: See wage earner.

Most of the entries in this glossary were adapted from AARP's Social Security for Dummies, by Jonathan Peterson, © 2012 by AARP, and excerpted with permission of the publisher. Some entries have been adapted from the Social Security Administration's "Glossary of Social Security Terms."

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