Active duty military service could qualify you for additional Social Security benefits

If you served on active duty in the military between the years of 1957 and 2001, you could be entitled to special extra earnings that can be credited to your Social Security earnings record. There are no special extra earnings credits for military service after 2001. In addition, time spent in inactive duty training does not qualify for special extra earnings credits.

For the purposes of Social Security benefits, “active duty” is defined as Active Duty, Active Duty for Training (ACDUTRA) or service in the Reserves in any of the following organizations:

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Coast & Geodetic Survey (CGS)
  • Marines
  • National Guard
  • Navy
  • Commissioned Officer in the Public Health Service (PHS)

So how do you know if you are receiving, or should receive extra credits? According to the Social Security Administration, if your active duty military service occurred:

  • From 1957 through 1967, the extra credits are added automatically to your earnings record when you apply for Social Security benefits
  • From 1968 through 2001, the extra credits are already added to your record and you don’t need to do anything
  • After 2001, there are no special extra earnings credits for military service. This is because the 2002 Defense Appropriations Act stopped the special extra earnings that had been credited to military service personnel. Military service in the calendar year 2002 and beyond no longer qualifies for these special extra earnings credits.

Based on the time period of your active duty military service, the Social Security Administration automatically adds the following extra earnings credits to your existing benefits:

  • If your active duty service occurred between 1957 and 1977, you are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay
  • For active duty service that took place between 1978 and 2001, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings for every $300 of your active duty basic pay, up to $1,200 a year. However, if you enlisted after September 7, 1980 and didn’t complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be eligible to receive the additional earnings.

Receiving Social Security benefits, including special extra earnings, does not interfere with or lower the amount of your military retirement benefits. Conversely, there is no reduction in your Social Security benefits as a result of your military service. Because earnings for active duty military service and/or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957, military retirees will receive their full Social Security benefit based on their earnings.

For more information, or to start planning your Social Security retirement benefits, please review the following publications from the Social Security Administration: