Military Service And Social Security

By Sharon D. Byrd
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

The thoughts of many Americans are with the brave men and women who are serving their country in the armed forces overseas.  So I thought it might be a good time to review the connection between service in the military and Social Security.

If you are in the military, you probably know that you are paying Social Security taxes and earning Social Security coverage.  In fact, earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957.  And Social Security has covered inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988.  In addition to your regular pay, special earnings credits are added to your Social Security record when you serve in the military.   

In 2008, the Social Security tax rate is 6.2 percent up to a maximum of $102,000 in earnings.  You also pay 1.45 percent in Medicare taxes on all of your military earnings.  The U.S. Government, as your employer, matches the taxes you pay.

And after you've received $4,200 in military pay in 2008, you've earned the maximum four Social Security credits that count toward future Social Security benefits.  The number of credits you need to qualify for Social Security depends on your age and the type of benefit you might be eligible to receive.  No one needs more than 40 credits (10 years of work or military service) to be eligible for Social Security.

Your future Social Security benefit depends on your earnings averaged over your working lifetime.  Generally, the higher your earnings, the higher your Social Security benefit.  If you had military service prior to 2002, there are special rules that may apply to you concerning credit for extra earnings for military service.  These extra earnings could, in some cases, translate into additional Social Security credits and potential Social Security benefits.  Check with Social Security for more details.

And remember that Social Security is more than retirement.  If you're a young person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes for as few as 18 months, it's possible that you may be eligible for disability benefits for you and your family.  If you die, your spouse and dependent children may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits.

For more information, read the fact sheet, Military Service and Social Security.  It is available on our website at < > .  Or you can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) and ask for a copy to be mailed to you.