Do You Get Extra Social Security for Military Service?

Some veterans are eligible for extra social security credits. Learn how your Social Security pay is impacted by military service and get tips on how to increase your benefits.
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Table of Contents
  1. Can I get military retirement pay and Social Security? 
  2. Do I get extra Social Security for military service?
    1. If You Served Between 1940 and 1956
    2. If You Served Between 1956 and 1978 
    3. If You Served Between 1978 and 2001
  3. How to Apply for Social Security Benefits
  4. When Should You Apply for Social Security Benefits?
    1. Delaying Social Security Benefits can Result in Higher Payments 
    2. How much do you lose taking Social Security early?
  5. Tips to Increase Your Social Security Benefits
    1. Tip #1: Your Retirement Age Affects Your Benefits
    2. Tip #2: Working While Receiving Benefits Can Impact Your Income
    3. Tip #3: Your Social Security Benefit May Be Taxable
    4. Tip #4: Pay Attention to Social Security Statements
    5. Tip #5: Social Security Benefits May Increase to Keep Up With Inflation
    6. Tip #6: Avoid Garnishments That Reduce Your Benefits.
  6. Use this Information to Assist Your Retirement Planning

The transition to civilian life has many financial planning milestones—one of the most vital involves understanding how military service influences Social Security benefits. The intersection of military benefits and Social Security might seem complex, but understanding it can help ensure you retire with enough money to live comfortably. 

In this article, we’ll cover how military service and military retirement pay affect Social Security, along with 6 tips you can use to increase your Social Security benefits. 

We also have a detailed page that explains Social Security benefits for veterans with disabilities.

Can I get military retirement pay and Social Security? 

Yes, servicemembers can receive both military retirement and Social Security benefits without reducing their Social Security pay.

Just like civilian employees, military members pay Social Security taxes on their earnings, meaning they contribute to the Social Security system and are eligible for Social Security benefits upon reaching retirement age. 

Furthermore, veterans who served during certain years are eligible for extra Social Security benefits. 

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Do I get extra Social Security for military service?

Yes, you are eligible for additional Social Security credits if you served in the military between 1940 and 2001. Military service after 2001 is not eligible for these extra Social Security credits. 

A Social Security credit is a basic unit used to calculate eligibility for Social Security benefits. These credits are essentially how the Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps track of how long you’ve worked and contributed to the Social Security system through payroll taxes. You earn these credits based on your yearly work income, and the more credits you’ve earned and the longer you’ve worked, the higher your benefit amount will be.

The credits you earn for military service are factored into your lifetime earnings and used to calculate your Social Security Benefits. How much this impacts your Social Security pay depends on when you served and for how long. 

If You Served Between 1940 and 1956

Before 1956, Social Security taxes weren’t automatically taken out of military paychecks. 

However, the government worked out a plan that would credit you with earnings of $160 for each month you served during those years as long as you met at least one of the following requirements:

  • You were honorably discharged after serving a minimum of 90 days.
  • You were injured or disabled in the line of duty and released.
  • You’re still active duty.
  • You’re a surviving spouse whose veteran spouse passed during active duty.

If you served during this time period, the extra credits will be added to your record when you apply for Social Security. The only caveat, you can’t receive credit if you already receive a federal benefit based on the same year(s) of service.

You can contact your local Social Security office for additional details and guidance.

If You Served Between 1956 and 1978 

Servicemembers who were on active duty between 1956 and 1978 are also eligible for a Social Security benefit. This group qualifies for $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which they received basic active duty pay. 

If you served any time before 1968, your credits get added to your account when you apply for Social Security.

If You Served Between 1978 and 2001

If you served on active duty between 1978 and 2001, for every $300 in active duty basic pay, you get an additional $100 in earnings credited up to a maximum of $1,200 per year.

Your service should already be accounted for when you apply for Social Security if you served any time after 1968. However, you should be prepared to verify this information, which is one more reason why your DD Form 214 (military service record) is so important!

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

Servicemembers can apply for Social Security benefits online, by phone at 1-800-772-1213 between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday through Friday, or by visiting your local Social Security office. 


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When Should You Apply for Social Security Benefits?

Many people take Social Security benefits as soon as they are eligible to begin receiving them, which for most Americans is age 62. But just because you’re eligible to start receiving Social Security benefits doesn’t mean you should take them immediately.

Here are a few things to consider regarding Social Security benefit timing.

Delaying Social Security Benefits can Result in Higher Payments 

In general, you can begin receiving Social Security Benefits at age 62, but in many cases, it’s worth delaying your start date if possible.

This is because the SSA reduces payments for those who begin receiving benefits before reaching their full retirement age (FRA). The FRA is the age at which beneficiaries can receive full Social Security Benefits, which, until 2002, was age 65 for everyone. The reduction helps incentivize people to wait longer to accept benefits so the system remains financially balanced.

The table below shows your FRA based on the year you were born.

If You Were Born In:Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) Is:
1937 or earlier65 years of age
193865 and 2 months
193965 and 4 months
194065 and 6 months
194165 and 8 months
194265 and 10 months
1943 to 195466 years of age
195566 and 2 months
195666 and 4 months
195766 and 6 months
195866 and 8 months
195966 and 10 months
1960 or later67 years of age

If you accept your benefits after reaching your FRA, you’ll get the full amount due to you with no reduction. 

How much do you lose taking Social Security early?

When you take Social Security benefits early, the amount you receive each month is reduced based on how many months before FRA you start collecting benefits. These reductions affect your benefits for the rest of your life.

Your total Social Security amount is reduced by 0.55% for every month you are under your FRA, up to 36 months. If you start taking benefits more than 36 months before retirement age, your benefits will be further reduced by 0.42% a month. 

Let’s look at the reduction formula with an example: 

Say your FRA is 66. Your Social Security benefits will decrease by about 6.67% per year (or about 0.56% per month) for the first three years early that you claim. If you claim more than three years early, the reduction increases to about 5% per year (or about 0.42% per month) for each additional year.

Here’s another way of viewing it:
If your FRA is at 67 and you start claiming Social Security benefits at age 62, you face a permanent reduction of about 30%. 

If your FRA is 66, and you claim at age 62, you face a permanent reduction of 25%. 

It’s important to note if you accept Social Security benefits before reaching FRA, your reduction in benefits will be permanent.

Tips to Increase Your Social Security Benefits

The Social Security System greatly benefits taxpayers who paid into the system over the years. 

Unfortunately, it can be confusing if you haven’t had time to research available Social Security Benefits and the situations that may entitle you to additional benefits. Failure to understand this system could cost you money at a time when you can least afford the loss and when you should be enjoying your retirement.

Below are tips to increase your Social Security benefits and ease your retirement years.

Tip #1: Your Retirement Age Affects Your Benefits

As mentioned above, you can earn less than or equal to the normal Social Security Benefit for your lifetime earnings, depending on when you begin taking Social Security payments. But you should also know that you can even get additional Social Security credits by delaying the start date of your benefits after your FRA. 

The SSA offers delayed retirement credits, which reward people who collect Social Security late. For each year you delay past your FRA, up to age 70, your Social Security retirement benefits increase due to delayed retirement credits.

Delayed retirement credits accrue monthly and increase your benefits by a certain percentage, depending on your year of birth. For those born in 1943 or later, the increase is 8% yearly or about 0.67% monthly. These credits can be accumulated until you reach age 70, after which there is no additional benefit increase for delaying.

For example, if your FRA is 67 and you delay claiming until age 70, your Social Security benefits would increase by 24% over what you would have received at age 67. 

Tip #2: Working While Receiving Benefits Can Impact Your Income

If you collect Social Security while still working, your benefits can also be temporarily reduced. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Before You Reach FRA: If you are under your full retirement age for the entire year, there is an earnings limit that, when exceeded, Social Security starts withholding benefits. For 2024, this limit is $22,320, but this will likely not be the limit for the upcoming years. However, the general rule is that Social Security withholds $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above this limit.
  • Year You Reach FRA: The year you reach FRA, your earnings limit increases, and the amount withheld changes. For 2024, the limit is $59,520, and Social Security withholds $1 in benefits for every $3 earned over the limit until the month you reach your FRA.
  • After Reaching FRA: Once you reach your FRA, regardless of how much you earn in any of the following years, your Social Security benefits will not be reduced.

It’s important to note that any benefits withheld due to exceeding the earnings limit are not “lost.” Once you reach FRA, your monthly benefit amount will be increased to account for months when your benefits were withheld due to excess earnings.

Furthermore, additional earnings can also increase your overall benefit amount, as Social Security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of earnings. If your earnings in later years are higher than any previous years used to calculate your benefit, your benefit will be recalculated and could increase.

Tip #3: Your Social Security Benefit May Be Taxable

The government establishes income thresholds to determine who pays taxes on benefits and who doesn’t. 

If half of your Social Security income and your other forms of income (such as investment earnings, pension payments, tax-exempt interest, and other wages) surpass the threshold, you may find yourself owing taxes on benefits. 

Social Security Tax Limit
Single Filing If your income is between $25,000 and $34,000, up to 50% is taxable.

If your income exceeds $34,000, up to 85% is taxable.
Married, Filing JointlyIf your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% is taxable.

If your combined income exceeds $44,000, up to 85% is taxable.
Married, Filing SeparatelyIf you file separately but lived with your spouse at any point during the year, 85% of your benefits will likely be taxable.

If you file separately and lived separately from your spouse for the entire year, the Single Filing applies to your income and tax limits.

Tip #4: Pay Attention to Social Security Statements

Over the years, you have probably noticed an annual Social Security statement arriving in your mailbox. However, the Social Security Administration no longer mails these statements without filling out and mailing a request form. This typically has a four to six week turn around. However, you can register for a free online account at SSA.gov, where you can immediately view your annual earnings statement and projected Social Security Benefits when you reach retirement age.

It is important to pay attention to the information contained in this statement. Carefully review your statement each year to ensure your earnings are correctly reported. This history of your earnings plays a vital role in determining your Social Security benefits

If you notice errors in the statement, it is your responsibility to report these mistakes. Correcting an error in your lifetime earnings could significantly increase benefits.

Tip #5: Social Security Benefits May Increase to Keep Up With Inflation

The government applies an annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to Social Security Benefits each year. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index or CPI. The increases depend on changes in the cost of living over the course of the previous four quarters. 

Tip #6: Avoid Garnishments That Reduce Your Benefits.

Generally, Social Security benefits are protected from most debt collection actions. This is not the case with back taxes, outstanding federal student loans, child support, and alimony. If you have any of these debts lurking in your past, take the necessary steps to satisfy your debt obligations to protect your benefits from garnishments.

When you understand how your benefits work and what you can do to increase your Social Security paycheck, you create financial and personal peace in your later years. For many retirees, this paycheck may be the only income they will receive during their retirement years. Whether Social Security is your only source of income or a supplement to other sources of income, you must fully receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

Use this Information to Assist Your Retirement Planning

If you are unsure where you stand with your benefit amounts, you can contact the Social Security Administration to request a copy of a current benefits statement. Your individualized statement will include payouts for benefits taken at age 62, at your FRA, and at age 70. Statements are also readily available on the SSA.gov website.

You’ll need to assess your financial situation to determine your need and time frame for accessing benefits. If you have the means to support yourself, you may find it beneficial to wait as long as you can before requesting benefits.

If you cannot live without the additional funds before reaching your full retirement age, you should consider taking the reduced benefit payments to stay on track financially. The decision should be carefully based on your needs, your spouse’s age, and even your life expectancy based on your present medical situation and family history.

When you come of age to start drawing Social Security, you will not only receive your full Social Security benefits but also added benefits for serving in the military if you served in the years mentioned above. Remember to verify you are receiving this additional benefit when applying. You should also double-check for this benefit when applying for Social Security survivor benefits to ensure survivors receive additional military service credits.

Taking your Social Security and military retirement pay into account with your other investments, such as the Thrift Savings Plan or a Roth IRA, can help you secure your finances and afford a comfortable retirement.


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  1. Bob Williams says

    Great article. I’m trying to verify my special credits were added. Do you have an example of what the earnings page would look like to show they were automatically added? I would think the column for Social Security Earnings would differ from the column Medicare earnings. Am I right about that? I’m about to start drawing and want to make sure I get all the benefits coming.

    Thx,

    Bob

  2. Kevin T. Hawkins says

    Hi, is the amount I see in my social security statement include my military service as the total amount with my service, or will I receive an extra amount be added when I apply for social security? I served from 1975 to 1999

    Thank you
    Kevin T. Hawkins
    MSgt USMC (Ret.)

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Robert, Yes, I believe you are, based on the information provided by the Social Security Administration. You will need to contact the SSA office for more information and you may be required to provide proof of service. Best wishes!

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