Q. I will be 62 in September with about 36 years of federal employment under CSRS. I know that I meet the criteria for normal retirement, but I have a question on Social Security quarters. I have been working part time before and during my federal career. I have checked my required quarters and found that I have enough to receive Social Security. Do the quarters count as the number of years (30) that qualify you for Social Security? Is there any other way to count the 30 years of employment?
A. To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, you only need 40 credits, which it seems that you have. However, your mention of 30 years suggests that you are asking about the effect of the windfall elimination provision on that benefit. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity from a retirement system where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes — such as CSRS — and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. The difference between the amount needed to earn four credits (one year) under Social Security and a year’s worth of substantial earnings is significant. To get four credits in 2012, you’d only need to earn $4,520; for those earnings to be considered substantial, you’d have to make $20,475.