Substantial earnings


Q: I am a retired teacher affected by windfall elimination provision/government pension offset in California. My question is specific and related to substantial earnings and the WEP/GPO formula. Over my working lifetime (1963-2005) I amassed twice the minimum amount required total earnings for substantial earnings, however, I did not have 30 individual years above the minimum standard. I made substantially more than the requirement in many years thereby doubling the total of the formula, if you added it year by year. I have substantial earnings; does the formula take this into consideration or is the number of years the only criteria used to determine Social Security benefit? I cannot find the answer anywhere on Social Security information Web pages.

A: Substantial earnings are set on a yearly basis. There is no carryover. So, for example, if you earned twice the mount to qualify as substantial earnings in one year, but less than that in the following year, you would only be credited with one year of substantial earnings. To see what constitutes substantial earnings in a given year, go to and scroll down to “How does it work?”

— Reg Jones


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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