Substantial earnings


Q. I started working for the government in 1976. I was under CSRS, quit and went back eight years later. I have paid Social Security since 1964. When I returned to the government, I was advised by the payroll person to go under FERS because I had more than 40 quarters in Social Security. If I have 30 years of substantial earnings, will my Social Security still be penalized? Where do I find the definition of substantial earning in a format I can understand?

A. If you have 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security, your Social Security benefit won’t be affected by the windfall elimination provision. To see a year-by-year list of what counts as substantial earnings, go to


About Author

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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