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Federal Benefits Glossary

Published September 3, 2013

The following is a glossary of common terms related to federal benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security:

  • Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): An annual adjustment that may be made to Social Security benefits to keep pace with inflation.
  • Lifetime Earnings: A history of the amount of money you earned during your working lifetime.
  • Lump Sum Death Payment: A $255 one-time payment paid upon death to a widow, widower or children under the age of 18, in addition to any monthly survivors benefits due.
  • Medicaid: A joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for people with limited resources.
  • Medicare: The federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older, people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease.
  • Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI): The Social Security program that provides monthly benefits to workers or their dependents upon retirement, death, or becoming disabled.
  • Representative Payee: A person such as a relative or friend appointed to handle your Social Security benefits if you are unable to handle your own financial affairs.
  • Retirement Age: The minimum retirement age is 62 for workers and 60 for widows/widowers. You may choose to take reduced benefits at this age. Full retirement age was formerly 65; it began increasing gradually in 2000 and will reach age 67 in 2022.
  • Social Security: The name for the overall system that workers pay taxes into, and from which benefits are paid upon retirement, death or disability.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A supplemental income program for blind and disabled people with limited resources, funded from general tax revenue and not from Social Security taxes.

For additional terms, visit the Social Security Administration Website.

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