How Social Security Works for Active Duty Military Members and Veterans

Social Security has additional provisions set aside for military members both active and retired. At Schott Law, we’re proud to help our Eastern Washington and Idaho servicemen and women with their benefits needs before, during and after their service.

Whether you’re currently serving or have served your country, you undoubtedly should expect that your government will take care of you upon your return. One of the ways the United States does that is through special considerations for military members.

In most cases, once you’ve retired from the military, you’re entitled to both your well-deserved military benefits alongside the Social Security you’ve earned. 

How Do Military Members Pay Into Social Security?

Servicemen and women pay into Social Security much like civilians do. A 6.2% Social Security Tax is levied on up to $137,700 of your earnings. An additional Medicare tax 1.45% applies to all wages along with another .9% for certain high earners, which the IRS details here.

How Do Military Members Receive Social Security Credits and Earnings? 

In 2020, if you earn at least $5,640, you’ll receive four credits. That minimum amount of earnings goes up each year and the four is the maximum allowed in one year. No one needs more than 10 years of work (40 credits) to receive Social Security. There are some additional circumstances where special earnings can be credited to your military pay record for Social Security purposes, such as active duty or active duty for training. 

If you served in the military after 1956, you’ve been paying into Social Security through the tax system. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves has also been covered by Social Security. 

Additional Notes for Those who Served from 1940-1956

If you served during that time period, you didn’t pay Social Security taxes and may be entitled to a $160/month credit in earnings for service from Sept. 16, 1940, through Dec. 31, 1956, for certain circumstances including:

-honorable discharge after more than 90 days of service 

-you’re still on active duty

-you’re applying for survivors benefits and the veteran died while on active duty

As the SSA notes, “You can’t receive credit for these special earnings if you’re 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.”


At Schott Law, we’re proud to help those who have served our country to receive all of the benefits they’ve rightfully earned. If you’re a military member (active or not) and have questions about the Social Security system, call us today at (509) 328-5789 to schedule a free consultation.