Larry Dandridge

Military Service Extra Earnings Credit and your Social Security Retirement Ben

Several veterans have asked me recently about the special extra earnings that may be granted to military men and women for periods of active-duty or active-duty for training. These extra earnings credits may help you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) calls this valuable benefit “Special Extra Earnings for Military Service.” You can read about this benefit at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/military.html and https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-1007.pdf.

According to the above two SSA website addresses and fact sheets, Special Extra Earnings for Military Service, from 1957 through 2001, if you had military service earnings for active-duty, including active-duty for training, you may have extra Social Security wage credits added to your earnings record. Special extra earnings are not granted for inactive duty training.

Here are how the special extra earnings are credited on your Social Security record:

From 1957 through 1977, veterans are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active-duty basic pay.

From 1978 through 2001, for every $300 in active-duty basic pay, veterans are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200 a year.

From 1940 through 1956, military members (veterans) did not pay Social Security taxes, but the SSA gave the veteran special credit for some of their service

Unfortunately, in January 2002, Public Law 107-117, the Defense Appropriations Act, stopped the special earnings that have been credited to military service members.

If you enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, and didn’t complete at least 24 months of active-duty or your full-tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings.

In all cases, the SSA adds the additional credit for military service to the earnings that the SSA averages over your working lifetime, not directly to your monthly benefit payment amount.

When you apply for Social Security benefits, the SSA automatically verifies your military service. If your military service increases your benefit and the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot get proof of your military service, they will ask for your DD-214 or other proof of service before they process your application.

In all cases, SSA adds military wage credits to your earnings, not directly to your monthly benefit payment.

This Special Extra Earnings for Military Service benefit is not just for military retirees, but it is for anyone who has served on active duty during the qualifying dates. Qualified veterans can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement benefits.

Generally, there is no reduction of SS benefits because of a veteran’s military retirement benefits. Veterans, like non-veterans, will get their Social Security retirement benefit based on their average earnings and the age they are qualified and choose to start receiving benefits.

You can read about all Social Security Benefits including retirement, disability, family (spouse and children and divorced spouse), working after retiring, remaining on active duty, and more at www.ssa.gov.

The most convenient way to do business with the SSA from anywhere, on any electronic device, is to visit www.ssa.gov. Veterans and non-veterans can apply for benefits, get helpful information, find publications, and get answers to frequently asked questions online.

When you open a personal My Social Security Account, you can review your Social Security Statement, verify your earnings, and get estimates of future benefits. You can also print a benefit notification letter, change your direct deposit information, request a replacement Medicare card, get a replacement SSA-1099/1042S, and request replacement Social Security Card (if you have no changes and your state participates).

If a veteran or non-veteran does not have access to the internet, the SSA offers many automated services by telephone, 24/7. Call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, call SSA at their TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

The South Carolina SSA handles several federal programs including retirement, SSI, Medicare, and disability benefits. You can find each of the S.C. Social Security Office addresses, phone numbers, and helpful information at https://ssofficelocation.com/offices/south-carolina/. Here are the addresses of some of the Social Security Offices in the footprint of The Island News and the Lowcountry of S.C:

Beaufort, S.C., Social Security Office, 646 Robert Smalls Pkwy, Beaufort, S.C. 29906, Phone: 1-866-254-3316 and TTY: 1-843-524-3943.

Savannah Social Security Office, 430 Mall Blvd., Savannah, Ga. 31406, Phone: 1-866-366-4923 and TTY: 1-912-353-9797.

Walterboro Social Security Office, 502 Robertson Blvd., Walterboro, S.C. 29488, Phone: 1-866-708-2810 and TTY: 1-800-325-0778.

Charleston Social Security Office, 1463 Tobias Gadson Blvd., Charleston, S.C. 29407, Phone: 1-866-495-0111 and TTY: 1-843-573-3615.

Due to COVID-19, local Social Security field offices are closed to the public. In most cases, you can call the office to schedule an appointment to complete a transaction that can only be done in person. Otherwise, you will need to take care of your situation over the phone with the SSA central office or a local SSA office or online through the Social Security website. Be ready to be put on hold when you call an SS Office locally or the national headquarters. Increased hold times are caused by the COVID crisis and the fact that only customers with a true emergency will be seen face-to-face (social distanced and wearing a mask).

So, what are the lessons learned in this article?

If you are in the military, you should verify with you finance office that your Social Security wage credits are being added to your SS earnings record.

Make sure you have certified copies of your DD214 or other discharge papers.

When you apply for Social Security Benefits, make sure you tell the SS Representative that you are a veteran, you have a copy of your DD214, and you want to make sure you got credit for your military service with the Social Security Administration.

Ask your local county Veterans Service Officer (VSO) or other certified expert for help when applying for VA or Social Security Benefits.

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and free-lance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net.

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