Q. How do I find out if I made “substantial salary” over the 28 years I was in Civil Service? I worked off duty during that time and paid into Social Security but do not know if I qualify for the exemption. A. To find out if your Social Security-covered earnings were substantial, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10045.html. There you’ll find the dollar amounts that qualify as substantial earnings for each year from 1937 to the present.