GAO Glossary of Terms and Definition (September 2005)
Authority to make payments (including loans and grants) for which budget authority is not provided in advance by appropriation acts to any person or government if, under the provisions of the law containing such authority, the U.S. government is legally required to make the payments to persons or governments that meet the requirements established by law (2 U.S.C. § 622(9)).
Under the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA), new entitlement authority was defined as direct spending and was subject to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) provisions. (See also Appropriated Entitlement; Authorizing Legislation; Backdoor Authority/Backdoor Spending; Budget Enforcement Act; Mandatory; Pay-as-You-Go.)
Congressional Budget Process: An Explanation (Senate Budget Committee)
Definition of Entitlement
Entitlement: Programs that are governed by legislation in a way that legally obligates the Federal government to make specific payments to qualified recipients. Payments to persons under the Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ pensions programs are considered to be entitlements. (See Direct Spending and Mandatory Spending.)
[The Congressional Budget Process: An Explanation, Appendix J (Glossary), Committee on the Budget of the U.S. Senate, S. Prt. 105-67 (Revised December 1998).]