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You Can Get Both Social Security Benefits And Military Retirement

Generally, 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.

Social Security survivors benefits may affect benefits payable under the optional Department of Defense Survivors Benefit Plan. Check with the Department of Defense or your military retirement advisor for more information.

If you have health care protection from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or under the TRICARE (formerly CHAMPUS) or CHAMPVA program, your health benefits may change or end when you become eligible for Medicare. You should contact the VA, the Department of Defense or a military health benefits advisor for more information

Credit For Military Service After 1956

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.

Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for periods of active duty from 1957 through 2001 can also be credited to your Social Security earnings record for benefit purposes.

There are no special extra earnings credits for military service after 2001.
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Credit For Military Service In 1940 Through 1956

If you were in the military from 1940 through 1956, including attendance at a service academy, you did not pay Social Security taxes. However, your records are credited with special earnings that may help you qualify for Social Security and Medicare or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit.

These special earnings credits are added to your earnings record when you apply for Social Security benefits.

How Special Earnings Credits Work

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 are still on active duty; or
  • You are applying for survivors benefits and the veteran died while on active duty.

You cannot receive credit for these special earnings if you are already receiving a federal benefit based on the same years of service. There is one exception: If you were on active duty after 1956, you can still get the special earnings for 1951 through 1956, even if you're receiving a military retirement based on service during that period.

What We Mean by "Active Duty Military Service"

Active duty military service means that you served on Active Duty, Active Duty for Training (ACDUTRA) or were in the Reserves for any of the following United States military organizations:

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

For more information, please read our Military Service fact sheet.