Social Security for Veterans 101Social Security for Veterans 101

You and your peers worked hard in the service of our country and took considerable risks to help improve the lifestyle of your fellow citizens. As you start to reach your golden years, some of that effort will pay off in the benefits the country makes available to your and your family.

While social security is a benefit available to most United States citizens 65 and older, senior veterans often qualify for a bit extra, both from social security itself and in the form of additional veterans benefits for seniors.

Social Security Special Credits for Veterans

All veterans who have had any active duty service time since 1957 have been paying into social security for those earnings. Any veterans with inactive duty time in the reserves since 1988 have paid social security taxes on those earnings as well. As a result, most veterans can count on social security payments when they reach the age of eligibility, but some can also count on a little bit extra.

Most veterans who served anytime from 1957 to 2001 qualify for up to $1,200 a year in extra special credits for their military service. In most cases, the extra amount will automatically be included in your social security payments, but if you suspect you may not be receiving it, you can talk to the Social Security Administration about your concerns to see if you’re due more.  

The program for extra social security credits for veterans ended in 2002, so if your service fell into years after that date, then you won’t qualify. For most veterans coming to be eligible for social security in the next few years though, it’s likely that most of your service time came before that date.

Other Veterans Retirement Benefits to Be Aware Of

Your social security payments shouldn’t be affected by the veterans benefits you receive, but some of your veterans benefits may change based on your social security eligibility.

Even so, those extra social security credits are just one small portion of the benefits available to senior veterans. As you grow older and need more aid, the government steps in to provide more opportunities to help. Here are the two most important benefits senior veterans should be aware of.

1. Veterans Pension

If you’re 65 or older and ever served on active duty during a period of war (or have a spouse that did), you may be eligible for the Veterans’ Pension. The pension is only paid out to veterans with a limited amount of income, so if you’re still working past 65, you could well price yourself out of the benefit, but if you don’t have much money coming in at that point, you could be eligible for monthly payments from the military. Your social security eligibility only affects your ability to earn the Veterans Pension insofar as it affects the income amounts the government looks at to determine how much of the pension to pay out.

The gist is that the government will pay you the difference between the amount of income you have coming in, and the income limit they’ve worked out. So if you’re a veteran with no dependents, you can earn $12,868 a year if you have no income, or whatever the difference is between what you make and $12,868. Any out-of-pocket medical expenses you take on can potentially lower the amount of income that’s counted and mean you earn more.

2. A&A Benefit

The Aid and Attendance Benefit is one of the most underutilized resources available to senior veterans. If you or your spouse needs help with the day-to-day tasks of living, you may qualify for up to an extra $2,120 each month in government benefits.

If either you or your spouse is a veteran and at the point where you’re considering assisted living or in-home care to get through the day, you can get some help with covering those bills and make sure you invest in the level of care you need.

How much you earn through the A&A benefit is influenced by the amount of income you have coming in. Therefore, as with the Veterans Pension, the only affect your social security payments have on your A&A eligibility is how they factor into your yearly income amounts. Find out if you may be eligible with this simple 1-minute questionnaire.

Between Social Security, the Veterans Pension and the A&A Benefit, hopefully your family can manage to afford all the care you need as you age. The benefits might not cover everything, but they should help put a dent in the bills you face in the coming years.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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