The earnings of people who serve in the military services on active duty or active duty for training have been covered by Social Security since 1957.
Inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has been covered since 1988. However, people who served in the military before 1957 did not pay into SS directly. Veteran’s records are credited with special earnings (wage credits), depending on when they served, which, for SS purposes, count toward any benefits that might be payable. Those in the military service from 1957 on paid SS taxes the same way as civilian employees do. Those taxes are deducted from your pay and an equal amount is paid by the U.S. government as your employer. You must have credit for a certain amount of work covered by SS before any benefits can be paid on your record. The number of credits you need to qualify for benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit you might be eligible for. Nobody needs more than 40 credits. In some cases you can qualify with less than 40 credits. The amount you get from SS depends on earnings averaged over much of your working lifetime. Generally, the higher the earnings, the higher your benefits.
The wage credits for military personnel can help you qualify for SS or increase the amount of your benefit. Credits are granted for periods of active or active duty training only. Social Security cannot add extra wage credits to your earnings record until you file for SS benefits. Wage credits are granted for:
• Service in 2001 to date. None.
• Service in 1978 to 2001. For every $300 in active duty basic pay, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1200 per year. 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.
• Service in 1957 thru 1977. You are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.
• Service in 1940 thru 1956. For military service inclusive of time spent in a military academy your record may be credited with $160 a month in earnings from Sept. 16, 1940, thru 1956 under the following circumstances
1. 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;
2. You are still on active duty;
3. You are applying for survivor’s benefits and the veteran died while on active duty.
You cannot receive credits if you’re already receiving a federal benefit based on the same years of service unless you were on active duty after 1956. In this situation, you are eligible to receive the credit for 1951 thru 1956 even if you are drawing a military retirement based on these years. Congress ended wage credits Jan. 20 under Public Law 107-117 NDAA after deciding that service members are better paid today and that wage credits were losing their importance and value.
Every applicant for SS benefits is asked to note their or their sponsor’s military service on the application and to show proof, either a DD 214 or W-2. If a person has difficulty in producing those documents SSA will assist them by contacting the armed services and requesting some kind of verification of military wages. Every veteran or military widow drawing Social Security today might want to check with SSA to verify if the wage credits were used in setting benefits, not just noted on an application. You are entitled to reimbursement from the time you started drawing SS and to an increase in your monthly SS check if the wage credits were not used in computing your entitlement. You can get both SS and military retirement. Generally there is no offset for SS benefits because of your military retirement with the exception of SBP. You’ll get your full SS benefit based on your earnings. However, your benefit may be reduced if you also receive a government pension you didn’t pay SS taxes on. This is covered in SS Pub No. 05-10045.
1-877-WAR-VETS is an around-the-clock confidential call center where combat veterans and their families can call to talk about their military experience or any other issue they are facing in their readjustment to civilian life. The staff is comprised of combat veterans from several eras as well as families members of combat veterans. This benefit is prepaid through the veteran’s military service.
The American Legion Trust Fund for 2012-2013 has been approved. These funds are not yet available. I will send out notice through this column when funds have been released.
Ensure you apply for travel through the Veterans Administration at VAMC Albuquerque, whenever possible.
For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll and for filing in the VSO office.
Durango VA Clinic
The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. Third Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.
The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:
American Legion Post 108. Second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.
Veterans for Veterans. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).
Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans. Every other Monday 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.
Point Man Ministry (Veterans). Every Thursday at 9 a.m., (Buffalo Inn).