Windfall elimination provision wording


Q. The Windfall Elimination Provision states: “The only work you did where you did not pay Social Security taxes was before 1957, or you have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.”

Are these statements separate or combined? What does the year have to do with it? What is the formula for calculating substantial earnings? Take into consideration that at the time, single mothers with three dependents did not earn “substantial earnings.” By the way, how much is substantial? It seems to me that the date I began work eliminates the windfall, along with my almost 30 years of Social Security earnings, which should not be subject to the WEP. Starting in 1956, the college I attended helped me work two jobs to cover all my expenses.

A. Notice the word “or”? Either the only work where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes was before 1957 OR you have 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. Therefore, these statements are separate.

The date you began work is relevant only if after 1957 you did pay Social Security taxes. You can find out what the term “substantial earnings” means for each year by going to


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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


  1. Is substantial work based on net pay or gross pay?
    Or on the type of work a person did as in … The term “substantial gainful activity” is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both.

    BTW … this link was a dead one:
    603. Definition of Substantial Gainful Activity

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