Facts About Social Security and Your Military Service


By Debbie Gregory.

Did you know you can receive both Social Security benefits and military retirement? Under most circumstances, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement benefits. You’ll get your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings.

Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security. If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but you are given special credit for some of your service.

During your service, you pay Social Security taxes just the same as civilians do. In order to qualify for benefits, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least ten years, including your civilian employment.

Your benefit amount depends on your earnings, averaged over your working lifetime. So, for the most part, the higher your earnings, the higher your Social Security benefit will be.

When you apply for Social Security benefits, you will be asked for proof of your military service (DD Form 214) or information about your reserve or National Guard service. In addition to providing retirement benefits, Social Security benefits are paid out to you and your family if you become disabled. Social Security pays survivors benefits to your family when you die.

While you can retire as early as age 62, your Social Security benefits will be permanently reduced. If you delay applying for benefits until your full retirement age, you can work and still get some Social Security benefits, but when you reach your full retirement age, you can get all of your Social Security benefits regardless of your income.

For more information, visit Social Security online or call the Social Security office toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The TTY number for the deaf and hard of hearing is 800-325-0778.

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Military Connection: Social Security for Veterans: By Debbie Gregory

DF-SC-84-11881Many articles talk about the sacrifices made by those who serve in the military. There are none who make a greater sacrifice than those who have become permanently and totally disabled as a result of their military service. We, as a nation, can never do enough to compensate these Veterans and their families for their sacrifices. But there are benefits available to disabled Veterans that they might not be aware of.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) began The Faces and Facts of Disability campaign, designed to raise awareness and provide information about disability programs.

One of the key talking points for the campaign is letting  disabled Veterans know that they can qualify for Social Security benefits on top of their benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Through the Faces and Facts of Disability campaign, the SSA hopes to educate Veterans about Social Security benefits.

Both the SSA and the VA can pay disability benefits to a Veteran. And VA compensation will not affect your Social Security benefits, and vice versa. But disabled Veterans should know that the two programs are very different, as are their processes and criteria for receiving benefits. Just because a Veteran was rated 100% permanently and totally disabled does not guarantee that they will be found eligible for Social Security Benefits. To be approved for Social Security benefits, Veterans must meet the SSA’s  definition of “disability,” which include:

  • The inability to do substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year, or result in death.

Veterans that have been rated 100% P&T by the VA can receive expedited processing through the SSA for Social Security benefits. First, Veterans should apply online, or at 1 (800) 772-1213 or TTY 1 (800) 325-0778 for deaf or hard of hearing. Veterans can also apply in person at their local Social Security office, but you should call ahead and schedule an appointment.

To assist Veterans and members of the public better understand the Social Security disability process, the SSA has created a seven-part YouTube video.

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Military Connection: Social Security for Veterans: By Debbie Gregory