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SSA Acronyms

The Social Security Administration, like all Government agencies, loves their acronyms. The following is a list of fairly common acronyms that we either see on a day-to-day basis, or encounter them with enough frequency that they are worth addressing here. With each acronym below, we add a little bit of explanation to make them more clear.

AACT: Abbreviated Account Query (used in Title II claims)

The term query, is an SSA term. A query is a computer printout containing internal coding that displays your payment history, claim history, denial codes, payment codes, etc. On occasion, we may ask you to request a AACT Query (Abbreviated Query), or a FACT query (Full Query).

Your local office personnel may tell you you are not entitled to them, but this is incorrect. Let us know as we had to initiate a class-action lawsuit against SSA several years ago for release of these queries. A federal court had determined that our clients were entitled to these printed queries under the Privacy Act of 1974.

AAJ: Administrative Appeals Judge (Appeals Council Adjudicator)

If the administrative law judge ALJ denies your claim, and we file an appeal to the appeals Council branch of SSA, the AA J will be the individual who will rule on your appeal

AC: Appeals Council

This is the body within SSA that will rule on any claims that are denied by the ALJ.

ACE: Average Current Earnings (factor used in Worker’s Compensation offset calculation)

This is a formula that SSA uses when a person receives Worker’s Compensation and has applied for Social Security disability. With the exception of a few states that are exempt (reverse states), a disabled American cannot receive more than 80% of his or her pre-disability earnings from public sources like Worker’s Compensation and Social Security. The term a CE represents the annual average of your earnings which will be the yardstick for this 80% rule.

After factoring in your monthly Workers Compensation payments, Social Security will pay an additional monthly disability benefit and will stop, once you reach 80% of your pre-disability wages. (ACE).

ADL: Activities of Daily Living

This refers to what a disabled person (Claimant) does on a typical day. In the past, the Disability Determination Services (DDS) would mail a Claimant a form called: The ADL Questionnaire. Now that form is more accurately titled. It is now called a Function Report. A Function Report is a SSA form used at the Initial and Reconsideration levels in order to understand what you do on a day-to-day basis. As we shared in the body of our webpages in explaining this process, they are generally used in an attempt to deny your claim.

ALJ: Administrative Law Judge

This is the individual who will preside over your case if you request a hearing. He or she will make the decision as to whether you’re disabled after an oral hearing. These oral hearings are generally in person, but because of the pandemic, they are being held by telephone. You can request an in-person hearing, but you won’t get a hearing date until the order is lifted within SSA.

AMM: Average Monthly Earnings (benefit calculation factor)

Like the ACE (see above), the a and am is basically a computation of your annual earnings averaged out on a monthly basis.

AOD: Alleged Onset of Disability or Alleged Onset Date

This is the date that you indicate on your initial application as the date you last worked, or the date your disability began. On occasion, we may amend the AOD. Sometimes the agency will approve your case with what we call an adverse AOD. This means they find a date that is different (later than) the date you last worked.

AR: Acquiescence Ruling

Whenever a ALJ denies the case and an appeal is made to Federal District Court and then denied again, an attorney can appeal further to a Circuit Court of Appeals. Whenever the Attorney wins at that Circuit Appeal level, the Social Security Administration will then update its regulations and they call these updates Acquiescence Rulings.

The Acquiescence Ruling will address the holding in the Circuit Appeals case, and that holding and that ruling will apply to all Social Security Claimants who live in that Federal Circuit.

AUSA: Assistant United States Attorney

Whenever an appeal is made to Federal District Court, the Attorney will negotiate and interact directly with the assistant US Attorney sitting in that Federal District Court. Once we file a complaint against the Social Security Administration in Federal Court, Social Security’s lawyers no longer interact with our office. All of our interaction and dealings are through the assistant US attorney until resolution of the law suit.

BHA: Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (former name of ODAR)

This is the SSA Hearing Office that will hear your appeal before the Administrative Law Judge

BO: Branch Office (sub office of a district office)

BWO: Blind Work Expenses

These refer to expenses that the agency will recognize as essential to getting to and from work, or expenses that are necessary for you to do your job. At the end of the month, you can deduct these BW owes from your gross income in an effort to get below the SSA threshold of substantial gainful activity (SGA).

CAB: Civil Actions Branch of Appeals Council

Once the appeals Council denies your case, and we file an appeal in federal District Court, SSA will internally transfer your case from the appeals Council, to the CAB.

This office will coordinate with the Assistant US attorney.


Every SSA Hearing office has a Chief ALJ. This individual is not only in a leadership role, but will also hear and adjudicate cases. He or she will also rule on fee matters, and other technical types of appeals.

CE: Consultative Examination or Consultative Examiner

This is an exam that DDS will schedule at government expense and an “independent” doctor will conduct the exam an issue report to DDS.

On occasion, the ALJ will order a post hearing CE for the same purpose.

CFR: Code of Federal Regulations

This is the book or publication that SSA will use to explain, and interpret their regulations based on the law or amendments passed and adopted by Congress. In addition, when SSA amends their rules or their definitions of disability, these amendments will be updated in the CFR.

CIB: Child’s Insurance Benefits (used in Title II claims)

These are monthly payments made to your dependents if you’re approved for Social Security. The Agency refers to these additional people who are entitled to a monthly benefit on your work record as Auxiliary Beneficiaries.

COBRA: Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

This is an employer-sponsored health insurance that most employers are required to offer you upon termination for any reason including medical reasons. You can elect to purchase COBRA coverage through your employers health plan, at a monthly expense that you are responsible for. Many of our clients cannot afford COBRA coverage and they end up uninsured.

COBRA coverage will last up to 18 months, but if you’re approved for Social Security Disability, you can get an extension up to 36 months from the date you last worked.

COLA: Cost of Living Adjustment

If you’re approved for Social Security disability, or SSI, every November, Social Security will announce an increase in your monthly benefit. The increase is based on the consumer price index and other factors and takes effect on January 1 of the next year.

DAA: Drug Addiction and/or Alcoholism / Drugs and Alcohol

If your disabling condition is exacerbated or impacted by your use of drugs and/or alcohol, Social Security can deny your claim based on the DAA rules.

In short, if the use of alcohol or drugs are a contributing factor material to the issue of your disability, the SSA can deny your claim on the basis of DAA.

DAC: Disabled Adult Child (used in Title II claims)

This refers to a review of your Social Security claim, once you turn age 18. If you received disability benefits as a minor because of a disability, then the agency is required by law to reassess your claim when you reach the age of majority using the adult disability definition. We explain this more and other pages (see Legal Services)

DED: Disability Evaluation Division (The State Agency)

This is the staff at DDS (Examiners, etc) that reviews claims and makes the medical decision of whether or not you are disabled.

DEQY: Detailed Earnings Query (used in Title II claims)

This is a printout which will display all of your earnings for the respective years in which you worked. As well as the Employer, their Federal EIN, and the total earned from that Employer in a particular year. This document is critical to ensure that the earnings you actually have are recognized by, and registered with Social Security.

On occasion, we’ve had self-employed individuals paid taxes on their income, but were not paid through traditional payroll, and as a result, their earnings record on their seek we are all zeros. It takes some effort to fix this problem. So if you are self-employed and reading this, you should contact us for more information.

DDS: Disability Determination Service (The State Agency)

This is the state agency that will make the finding of disability at the initial, and reconsideration stages of the SSA claims process. Once you file a claim or appeal, your file is routed from your field office (FO) to the DDS office in your state. They make the decision.

On occasion, the ALJ will kick your claim back to DDS for further development which is usually in the form of a SSA Consultative Exam.

DHHS: Department of Health and Human Services (former SSA parent agency)

DI: Disabled Individual (used in Title XVI claims)

This refers internal coding about the type of benefit you file for. The DI acronym refers to Title 16 Supplemental Security Income Benefits.

DIB: Disability Insurance Benefits (used in Title II claims)

DJ: District Judge

DLI: Date Last Insured (used in Title II claims)

DLM: Date Last Met (same as Date Last Insured)

DO: District Office (local Social Security Administration field office)

DOB: Date of Birth

DOE: Date of Entitlement (applies to Title II claims)

This is the first day of the calendar month in which you are entitled to monthly cash benefits. For SSI claims, it’s generally the first month after the date of the Application. For Title 2 SSDI claims, it’s usually the first date after the five-month waiting period has expired.

DOT: Dictionary of Occupational Titles

This is a federal publication that lists every job in the United States economy by sector. The deal he will include the internal reference number as well as the sitting and lifting requirements, and a brief or sometimes details description of the duties of that particular occupation. The ALJ will ask the vocational experts questions about your limitations, and whether or not your limitations prevent you from performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, and that are listed in the DOT.

DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

This is a medical publication which is presently in its 5th printing (DSM 5) and it lists every mental disorder that is accepted by the medical and mental health community. Each disorder is accompanied by signs and symptoms that are required for a positive diagnosis.

EAJA: Equal Access to Justice Act

This is a Federal law that allows for the payment of Attorney fees, when an individual is forced to sue the Social Security ministration for relief, and wins. If we represent you in a claim that progresses to federal court and we secure benefits, we will seek these EAJA fees to reimburse us for the work we’ve done.

EPE: Extended Period of Eligibility (applies to Title II claims)

This is a Post Entitlement program baked into the Social Security Act and Regulations that allow you to continue receiving monthly Social Security Disability benefits for any month that you are not working, or working, but earning less than the statutory amount.

The EPE will kick in at the expiration of the nine-month Trial Work Period (TWP) which every disabled American is entitled to. And under the EPE, you can potentially receive an additional 36 months of benefits for those months that you qualify.

ER: Earnings Record

These are Social Security printouts or queries, that are generated from the SSA mainframes. These query printouts will either display a Summary of all the earnings you had in a particular calendar year (SEQY), or a detailed list of all the earnings you had in a particular year listing the employer, there Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), along with the earnings at that particular employer paid you during a particular calendar year. This printout is called a DEQY (Detailed Quarterly Earnings Report)

FMAX: Family Maximum (Title II benefit limit)

This is the maximum monthly amount of cash benefits that a particular person is entitled to based on his/her FICA contributions. The Family Max is generally 1.5 times the individuals monthly benefit amount. In some cases, low-wage earners have not paid enough FICA credits to qualify for a Family Max, or the Family Max in their case is less than 1.5 times their monthly benefit.

FO: Field Office (a district office or a branch office)

This is the local Social Security office that will service your ZIP Code. Once you file a claim for Social Security Disability or SSI, the electronic printout from your electronic application, is handled by your local Field Office. From there, they route your file to the Disability Determination Services in their state who will make the medical decision as to whether or not you are disabled. The Field Office does not make this medical decision.

FOIA: Freedom of Information Act

This is the federal law that allows an individual to get public information from the government. If you want specific information from your particular claim file, then the privacy act of 1974 would apply to your request, not the Freedom of Information Act.

GLPSC: Great Lakes Program Service Center – PC4

This is one of several regional Payment Centers (PC’s) scattered throughout the country. Once you become entitled to Disability benefits, and you attain the age of 55, payment of your monthly benefits falls to the jurisdiction of one of these regional PCs. The Great Lakes Program Service Center, PC 4, services disabled and retired individuals whose Social Security numbers are in a certain sequence. Namely, if the first 3 numbers of your SSN fall within the following range: 268-302, 316-399, 700-728, 731, then PC 4 will have jurisdiction if you are over age 55.

HA: Hearing Assistant

This is the individual who works at the office of hearing operations (OHO) and he or she will assist the Judge with various duties including recording the hearing.

HALLEX: Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law [Lex] (Office of Hearings and Appeals policy manual)

This is the internal operating regulations of the Social Security Hearing Offices (OHO). The HALLEX addresses jurisdictional and procedural matters as to how the hearing offices are to handle claims, inquiries, hearings, issues of fees etc. We often refer to the HALLEXX when we are submitting documents or clarifying certain procedural issues.

HCFA: Health Care Finance Administration

Created in 1977, the HCFA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and their job is to oversee the Medicare program, and the federal spending portion of each individual state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is a product of both state and federal funding, so the eligibility rules can change annually.

HE: Hearing Examiner (former title of Administrative Law Judge)

If you have been approved for Social Security, and the Agency is now reviewing your case one more time to see if you remain disabled, part of the appeal process is a hearing before a DDS official. This official’s title is generally referred to as the Hearing Examiner in his or her report. If the Hearing Examiner determines that you are no longer disabled, you can appeal that decision to the Administrative Law Judge.

HIA: Health Insurance, Part A – Medicare

Once you’re approved for Social Security disability, you are entitled to Medicare parts a and B after 24 months of eligibility. Medicare Part A covers hospital visits and inpatient visits and skilled nursing facilities.

HIB: Health Insurance, Part B – Medicare

Medicare Part B covers doctor’s visits, tests, bloodwork, etc.

HOCALJ: Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge

Every Hearing Office (OHO) has a Chief Administrative Law Judge. This is the judge that not only has a working caseload, but sits in a leadership role and oversees the operations of the hearing office including the Judges.

HOM: Hearing Office Manager

This individual is in a middle management role at the hearing’s office, and coordinates in overseas operations within the office. When you receive your acknowledgment of hearing, this is the individual who has signed that document.

HPI: Hearing Process Improvement

HPI was an initiative taken on by the Social Security ministration, to improve hearing wait times and improve the hearing process overall. It started in 2000, and it appears to be ongoing.