By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, AFC®
and Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE
Military service members can collect both Social Security benefits and military retirement benefits, and in many cases, Social Security is a key component of military families’ future income. Therefore, it is important that service members regularly check their personal Social Security statement to learn about future benefits and review reported earnings. Social Security statements are available online at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. They are only mailed to workers, age 60 and older, who do not have an online account established.
Social Security statements were recently redesigned to be more understandable. They now include shaded sections with red subheadings and a bar graph with nine horizontal bars that illustrates a worker’s projected monthly retirement benefit at age 62 through 70. The bar graph clearly shows, with both numbers (for monthly benefit amounts) and the length of the bars, that benefits increase as workers wait longer to claim benefits.
Below is a brief description of the information contained within Social Security statements for Personal Financial Managers to share with service members:
Before the statement redesign, workers were only provided estimated benefits for three ages (62, full retirement age, and 70) instead of the nine ages that are shown in the bar chart described above. This section also describes their full retirement age based on year of birth (e.g., age 67 if born in 1960 or later).
This section describes whether or not a worker has enough credits to qualify for Social Security benefits and the estimated monthly benefit if they were disabled right now.
This section describes whether or not a worker has enough credits for eligible family members to receive survivor’s benefits and the estimated monthly benefit for a spouse and minor children.
This section indicates whether or not a worker has enough credits to qualify for Medicare at age 65. It also briefly describes Medicare and recommends workers sign up within three months of their 65th birthday.
This section lists a worker’s lifetime earnings to date, including the work year and earnings taxed for Social Security and Medicare. Older earnings amounts are grouped by decade. This section also includes a phone number to call if there is an error in the earnings record.
This section provides an estimate of the total Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by workers and their employer(s) over their entire working career to date.
Earnings Not Covered by Social Security
This section explains that workers who receive a pension based on work for which they do not pay Social Security tax could have Social Security benefits lowered, but not eliminated, by the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Important Things to Know
This section includes bullet points tailored to the age of statement users. Younger workers get some different bullet points than older workers who are already receiving benefits.
Social Security may be an important piece of a service member’s retirement plan. It is crucial that they regularly check their personal Social Security statement to learn about future benefits and review reported earnings.
Service providers can learn more by engaging with our webinars: Social Security Benefits in 2023 and Social Security & Disability 101.