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WEP ... I thought I understood this.
Old 11-05-2013, 11:19 AM   #1
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WEP ... I thought I understood this.

There are various statements on the SSA site to the effect that 30 years of substantial earnings will result in zero WEP reduction.

I had assumed that this meant 30 years of earnings up to the time when you start to draw social security. But is this right? I think the 30 years may be up to the time when you reach age 62.

Has anyone here clarified this with the SSA?
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Old 11-05-2013, 01:04 PM   #2
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Peter, I am not a Social Security expert, but I believe you are correct about 30 years of earnings up to the time you start collecting a benefit (assuming you start the benefit no later than 70 -- I have no idea what happens if you wait until after 70; I also have no idea why anyone would wait until after 70).

Probably the best way to answer this is by using the online WEP calculator on the SS website, or download the detailed calculator, also from the SS website. You will have to enter some data before you get an answer, but it should not take very long.

I do DW's on both, and entering the data into the online calculator takes me about 10 minutes. The detailed calculator saves the data on your computer, so after the initial data entry, all I have to do is update each year for the SS COLA.
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Old 11-05-2013, 01:05 PM   #3
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I think it means 30 years...period. Of course, if you continue to work all the way up to age 62, it will mean a bigger check than if you have the 30 yrs, but stop working at age 56. Also keep in mind what the term "substantial earnings" means. There is a minimum dollar amount threshold that applies to each of the years, and is a different amount, depending on which year it is. Earlier years require a smaller amount to count as "substantial" vs. later years that required a larger amount earned to be "substantial". I have a whole bunch of yearsl, basically. every year between 1982 & 2010 where I did earn some income that I paid SS taxes on, but since the amount was smaller (ie. lower than the amount required for "substantial" status for that year) none of those years will count for me as "substantial". They do count towards "credits" for meeting the minimum number of credits to actually qualify for SS, but they don't count as "substantial" earning amounts. Thus...even though I have worked without any unemployment time since 1973, I will only recieve around $250 in SS at age 62, due to WEP. I have been a federal employee (not paying SS) since 1981. I was also an Air Force Reservist 1981-2010 & paying into SS during that time.
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Old 11-05-2013, 07:30 PM   #4
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Thanks Marty and Rustward for your observations. The reason I was wondering about age 62 was the table in this document:

Retirement Planner: How the Windfall Elimination Provision Can Affect Your Social Security Benefit

It says you should go to the year when you reach 62 to see what the WEP reduction will be. I assumed that the number of years of substantial earnings would also be reckoned to this date. But there's no direct statement to that effect, and certainly one reading of the instructions would be that all the matters is the total number of years.

Anyway, I did go to the WEP calculator, and entered my data, including the non-covered pension component. The benefit amount was identical to that shown without the non-covered pension ... which is what I expected/hoped since I do have the 30 years, even though the last couple were after age 62.

OK, I think that's enough rambling. Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.
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Old 11-05-2013, 08:34 PM   #5
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I realize you can apply for SS over the internet but I suggest you might consider walking into a SS office and do a face to face with one of their agents. I calculated I had 26 years of "substantial earnings" (remember, these are defined annual earnings), including several years I earned during my military service. When in the military there is an "assumption" that you earned at least $300 ADDITIONAL income each quarter. This gave me an additional year of substantial earnings. As I suspected, the SS admin got it wrong.

I politely showed the agent my documentation and he corrected the mistake, plus did a few other things I hadn't thought of.

So, again, I urge you to go down to the SS office and talk with a human being there. Bring all your relevant documentation as well.

Rich
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Old 11-09-2013, 07:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich View Post
I realize you can apply for SS over the internet but I suggest you might consider walking into a SS office and do a face to face with one of their agents. I calculated I had 26 years of "substantial earnings" (remember, these are defined annual earnings), including several years I earned during my military service. When in the military there is an "assumption" that you earned at least $300 ADDITIONAL income each quarter. This gave me an additional year of substantial earnings. As I suspected, the SS admin got it wrong.
I politely showed the agent my documentation and he corrected the mistake, plus did a few other things I hadn't thought of.
For those military veterans wondering about this, a few years ago I noticed that my Social Security records had been updated to incorporate the military service wage credits. I think the update happened in 2006 or 2007 but I haven't kept the paperwork.

For those whose military service is after 2001, never mind-- that's when the program ended. Here's a summary:
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10017.pdf
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:45 AM   #7
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My understanding is that service prior to 1968 has to be added in manually from your DD-214 when you file. Service from 1968 to 2001, should already have been credited. I've done a detailed calculation on mine (1974-95), and the numbers match up with the estimate.
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Old 11-10-2013, 10:50 AM   #8
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This is tangentially related to this thread. I'm 62 and have figured based on the calculators that I'm like to suffer a $130 or so monthly reduction from this.

My question is, does the paper document that I received from SS predicting my benefit at 66 account for all that? I've been taking my pension since 60, which was earned while paying SS; I have 27 years of "substantial earnings." Worked 15 years in non SS government.

So does the SS computer know all, NOW, or do they comb through all this when you actually walk in and say gimme my money?
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Old 11-11-2013, 12:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BLS53 View Post
My understanding is that service prior to 1968 has to be added in manually from your DD-214 when you file. .....
Makes sense. I was in from 1964~68 so had to show them (SS guy) myself.

Rich
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