Social Security eligibility


Q. I am 61 years old. I have 38 years and eight months in CSRS. I worked for the Department of the Air Force, Department of the Navy and Postal Service. I have 28 quarters of Social Security.  I plan to retire no later than Dec. 3. I get updates on my annuity for CSRS. I have no updates on my Social Security. Will I be able to receive a Social Security check at a reduced amount because I only have 28 quarters? Or will I have to get my 40 quarters and then have it reduced?

A. You aren’t eligible for a Social Security benefit in any amount. To be eligible for one, you’d have to have 40 credits. The term credits has replaced quarters, because you don’t have to work in each of a year’s quarters to get four credits. In 2012, you only have to earn $1,130 to receive one credit. So, if you earned a total of $4,520 at any time during a calendar year, you’d receive four credits.

Now to your other point. Because you’ll be receiving an annuity from CSRS, a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, any Social Security benefit you are entitled to will be reduced — but not eliminated — by the windfall elimination provision.


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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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