Military Law

Military Service and Social Security

Did you receive earnings for military service? You paid Social Security taxes just like civilian employees. Military earnings have been covered under Social Security since 1957.

Receiving Social Security benefits as a veteran is very similar to receiving them as a non-veteran. However, you may be entitled to special extra earnings for your military service.

Qualifying for Social Security Benefits

To qualify for retirement benefits, you have to earn a certain number of credits. You earn credits by working and paying Social Security taxes for a certain length of time. Most people need to earn 40 credits, which is 10 years of work.

Amount of Social Security Benefits

The amount of Social Security benefits you receive will depend on how much money you earn during your career. The more money you earn, the higher the benefit. The benefit amount will be lower if you don't work a number of years or only make low earnings.

Another factor that influences the benefit amount is your retirement age. You can retire as early as age 62. However, your benefit amount will be permanently reduced. You must reach your full retirement age to receive your full benefit amount.

Special Extra Earnings for Military Service

You may be entitled to special extra earnings for your military service. These earnings can help you qualify for Social Security or increase the benefit amount. The extra earnings are credited to your career earnings.

The amount of extra earnings depends on the time frame you served and the length of the service. Only periods of active duty or active duty for training qualify for special extra earnings.

The time period to earn special extra earnings spans from 1940 to 2001. It's broken down into three smaller time periods:

  • 1940 through 1956
  • 1957 through 1977
  • 1978 through 2001

Military Service from 1940 through 1956

If you served in the military between 1940 and 1956, you didn't pay any Social Security taxes. However, you still can receive a credit of $160 a month. One of the following circumstances must occur to receive this credit:

  • You were honorably discharged after 90 or more days of service, or you were released because of a disability or injury received in the line of duty
  • You're applying for survivors benefits based on a veteran’s work, and the veteran died while on active duty

Military Service from 1957 through 1977

You paid Social Security taxes if you served in the military after 1957. You're credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter. The extra earnings only apply if you were on active duty. The earnings aren't directly added to your monthly benefit amount. They're only added to your career earnings that are averaged over your career.

Military Service from 1978 through 2001

The most recent period to earn special earnings is from 1978 through 2001. You're credited an extra $100 in earnings for every $300 in active duty pay. A maximum of $1,200 per year can be gained in additional earnings. Additional earnings are no longer credited after 2001.

Social Security Disability and Survivor Benefits

You can apply for disability benefits if you're suffering from a disability. It must be a medical condition that prevents you from doing substantial work. Short-term disabilities aren't covered by Social Security. The disability must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Your family may also be eligible for benefits after you die. Your spouse and children are the most likely to receive a survivor benefit. Parents are also eligible if they're dependent on you for at least half of their support.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What retirement age would make the most sense financially?
  • What do I have to do to prove my military service with Social Security?
  • Do I qualify for Social Security even though I stopped working for 15 years because of a disability?
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