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Social Security Disability Glossary

Social Security uses a lot of acronyms and mind-boggling jargon. Here's a list of those important to your claim.

AC= Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is the last level of appeal within SSA.
ADL= Activities of Daily Living. What you typically do during the day.
ALJ= Administrative Law Judge. The person who decides your appeal at the hearing level.
AOD= Alleged Onset Date. The date you say you became unable to work.
AUX= Auxiliary benefits. If your Family Maximum Benefit (FMAX) is larger than your PIA (Primary Insurance Amount), your dependents can split the remainder.
CDB= Child’s Disability Benefits. See DAC.
CDR= Continuing Disability Review. This is when SSA reviews your case to discover if you have worked more than allowed or if your medical condition has improved so that they can stop your benefits. This process closely resembles the initial application process.
CE= Consultative Exam/Examiner. The doctor that SSA/DDS (Disability Determination Services) sends you to.
DA&A= Drug Abuse and/or Alcoholism. Using drugs or alcohol will ruin your claim. Please just don’t do it. At all. Really.
DAC= Disabled Adult Child. A type of Title 2 benefit for an adult who has been disabled since before age 22 and whose parent is receiving DIB, RIB, or has died and was insured for DIB or RIB. Also called CDB (Child’s Disability Benefits)
DDS= Disability Determination Services. This is actually part of the state Department of Human Services (DHS) in Michigan – what used to be called FIA. The DDS makes the initial determinations in SSD and SSI claims. It also decides Reconsiderations.

DIB=Disability Insurance Benefits. This is the benefit for a worker who has become disabled. It’s also called SSD, SSDI, and other names, but it is actually one kind of Social Security Disability.
DLI= Date Last Insured.  DIB is an INSURANCE program and your taxes are the premium. When you stop working, you stop paying your premium, and eventually your insurance coverage will run out. It can last a maximum of 5 years after you stop paying the premium, but might not last that long if you have had gaps in your work record. To qualify for DIB, your inability to work must start before your Date Last Insured (DLI).
DOT= Dictionary of Occupational Titles. An outdated reference book that SSA uses to decide whether you can work. It is part of SSA’s land of make-believe. Don’t get us started.
EPE= Extended Period of Eligibility. Under certain circumstances you might re-qualify for DIB benefits after a period of work. If you do, it’s called an EPE.
FBR= Full Benefit Rate. The maximum amount the federal government will pay out for Supplemental Security Income. Some states add more. Michigan’s supplement to the FBR is extremely small – don’t even worry about it.
FMAX= Family Maximum benefit. The limit of the benefit to your family, which is based on your earnings.
IRWE= Impairment-Related Work Expense. What you spend out-of-pocket on your impairments in order to allow you to work. These expenses can reduce your earnings that SSA counts. So, for example, if you have IRWEs you might be able to receive DIB while working.
ISM= In-kind Support & Maintenance. If someone pays for or provides free room or board, that will reduce your potential SSI Full Benefit Rate (FBR) by one-third.
MDI= Medically Determinable Impairment. What you must have in order to be found “disabled:” an Medically Determinable Impairment that leaves you unable to work for 12 months in a row.
ME= Medical Expert. A doctor hired by SSA who might testify at your hearing.
MOE= Month of Entitlement. Your first benefit month.
MRFC= Mental Residual Functional Capacity. What you can still do in spite of your MDI-related mental limitations. The ALJ decides this, but we will ask your treating mental health provider to offer an opinion. DDS will probably have made their own guess about this. Probably wrongly.
MRS= Michigan Rehabilitation Services. A state agency that helps people with disabilities find appropriate work. We highly recommended this if you can do even a little part-time work.
OASDI= Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance benefits. DIB is part of this. So is RIB. And others.
ODAR= Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The hearings office, which is where the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is.
OP= Overpayment. When SSA pays you by mistake, it’s called an overpayment. You usually have to pay it back. Be careful.
PASS= Plan to Achieve Self Support. A plan set up with SSA that allows you to save money without risking the loss of SSI benefits.

PIA=Primary Insurance Amount. The amount of benefit payable to the wage earner. The difference between the FMAX and the PIA is what is available to dependents.
PRW= Past Relevant Work. Any work you’ve done (at SGA level) in the last 15 years, or the 15 years before your Date Last Insured (DLI). The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) comes in here. Again, don’ t get us started.
QC= Quarter of Coverage. These are the “credits” or “points” that you have to have enough of to be insured for DIB. It’s how SSA figures your DLI, among other things.
Recon= Reconsideration. OK, we don’t have it in Michigan, for the most part. But you might run into this term, which is a level of appeal that happens before the hearing level. In Michigan and a few other states, this is only for technical matters, not for the medical determination of disability, although it does concern the medical determination of a disability in a Continuing Disability Review. Sigh.
RFC= Residual Functional Capacity. What you can still do in spite of your MDI-related limitations. Usually referring to physical impairments. The ALJ must decide what this is and we will ask your doctor to offer an opinion about it to help the ALJ along. DDS will have given their own opinion about this, based on either no examination of you or a very superficial one.
RIB= Retirement Insurance Benefits. What Gran gets. Being disabled has no bearing on this. Age is the only thing. And having paid into Title 2 by working. Otherwise, there is SSI-retirement.
SDA= State Disability Assistance. State Disability Assistance is not related to SSA. It’s a small cash benefit for disabled adults without dependent children and who are extremely poor. It is only $200/month. Apply at DHS (FIA). If you get SSI later for the same months, SSA will pay back DHS out of your SSI benefits.
SGA= Substantial Gainful Activity. This is usually an amount of money that indicates to SSA that you are doing work that counts as work. Click here to see past and present SGA amounts are. There are other factors to consider however, so don’t count on being able to skate just under the line. And there are a lot of ways that SGA is used. Get advice about work!
TWP= Trial Work Period. Once disability is established, you can work and still be eligible for benefits for a period of time. When your TWP ends, the EPE begins and lasts 36 months.
UI= Unemployment Insurance. BEWARE! When you apply for UI, you state that you are willing and able to work full-time at a job similar to one you have worked in the past. You will have to be able to explain to the ALJ how you were also disabled for those same months. “What do they expect me to do?” is not an acceptable explanation. Get advice.
UWA= Unsuccessful Work Attempt. You tried to work, but you couldn’t keep it up for very long because of your impairments. It doesn’t count as work.
VE= Vocational Expert. A person hired by SSA to testify at your hearing. The VE uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and professional experience to say whether someone with your limitations could do any kind of work.
WC= Workers’ Compensation. Your WC benefits could result in a reduction of DIB, but usually not—if your WC attorney did it right.