You served your country honorably as a member of the United States Armed Forces. When you were done, you came home and entered the civilian workforce. Now, you’re ready to retire and collect your hard-earned benefits. But did you know those benefits may include additional Social Security credits that can raise your monthly retirement payment?
Why do some veterans get extra Social Security benefits?
Since 1957, military service earnings have been covered by Social Security, a benefit that was extended in 1988 to also cover inactive-duty service for Reservists. However, this was not always the case.
Individuals who served prior to 1957 (specifically between 1940 and 1956, which included the World War II and post World War II periods) were not covered by Social Security. Therefore, because those individuals did not pay into the system, they were not eligible to receive Social Security benefits.
When WWII ended, Congress set out to help post-war veterans recover their losses by crediting them with extra Social Security earnings.
What does that mean for my retirement benefits?
In a nutshell, you may be eligible for additional money when you retire and apply for Social Security benefits. Just keep in mind that the extra credits awarded by Congress differ somewhat based on when and how long you served.
For example, according to the Social Security Administration:
“If you served in the military from 1940 through 1956, including attendance at a service academy, you didn’t pay Social Security taxes. However, your Social Security record may be credited with $160 a month in earnings for military service from September 16, 1940, through December 31, 1956, under the following circumstances:
- 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; or
- You’re still on active duty; or
- You’re applying for survivors benefits and the veteran died while on active duty.”
In contrast, veterans who served between 1957 and 1967 receive an extra $300 per calendar quarter of military earnings, and veterans who served from 1978 to 2001 receive an extra $100 per $300 of active-duty basic pay (up to $1,200 annually). The special credits stop altogether after 2001.
You’ll find complete details about military special credits and eligibility here.
How can I make sure I get my extra earnings?
In theory, your military special credits will be automatically factored into your lifetime earnings when you apply for your retirement benefits. However, you can also contact the Social Security Administration to ensure your credits appear on your account.
Before you apply, you’ll need a copy of your DD214.
Obviously, because these extra Social Security credits are linked to when and how long you served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you will need to provide proof of service and honorable discharge in order to confirm your eligibility.
You should have received your DD Form 214, or Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, on or shortly after discharge day. If you didn’t, or if it’s been damaged, stolen, or misplaced, you will need to replace it prior to applying for retirement benefits.
If time is a factor and you need it sooner rather than later, it’s usually best to work with an expeditor like DD214Direct.com to get your discharge paperwork faster and without all the red tape, headaches, and endless waiting.
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