Q & A

Ask Rusty – No Dumb Questions About Social Security

Dear Rusty: I have some questions about Social Security, but I’ve never been old before so these may be dumb questions.

  1. My 66th birthday is in October 2021; do I put in for Social Security in January 2022? Or when?
  2. I am a 30-year military retiree. Do I need to bring my DD-214 to the SSA Office when I apply?
  3. My wife has not held a job outside the home, but she has worked as hard if not harder than me running and taking care of our home and affairs when I was away a lot of the time. She turns 66 in September 2022. Can she apply for Social Security and, if so, does she get a percentage of what I get?

Thank you for any help you can give me. Signed: Retired Military

Dear Retired Military: There are no “dumb questions,” especially when it comes to Social Security which has over 2,700 different rules sure to perplex even the most learned among us. I’ll answer your questions in the order you posed them:

  1. Your full retirement age (or “FRA”) is 66 years and 2 months. Your FRA is when you get 100% of the benefit you’ve earned from a lifetime of working. Claiming earlier will mean a reduced benefit; waiting longer can mean a larger benefit. If you wish to claim benefits at your full retirement age in December 2021, you should apply for those benefits in September 2021 (SS suggests you apply 3 months before you wish benefits to begin). Just be sure to specify your benefit start month as December to get your full benefit.
  2. You do not need your DD-214 when you apply for Social Security. Your earnings during your military career are already known to Social Security and will, along with any non-military earnings, form the basis for your Social Security benefit. Your SS benefit will be based upon the highest-earning 35-years of your lifetime earnings career (adjusted for inflation). You do not need to go to the SS office to apply; you can apply over the phone (call to make an appointment first) or online at www.ssa.gov/retire. Applying online is by far the easiest way to claim your benefits.
  3. Even though your wife is not eligible for SS benefits on her own work record, she can still collect a spousal benefit from you. If she waits until she reaches her FRA before she claims, she’ll get 50% of the benefit you are entitled to at your full retirement age. Your wife’s FRA is 66 years and 4 months and, although she can claim the spouse benefit before that, if she does it will be actuarially reduced according to the number of months before her FRA that she claims. FYI, your wife cannot collect her spousal benefit until you have started to collect your benefits.

Finally, thank you for your many years of service to our country. Your pay while serving will be part of the 35 highest-earning years over your lifetime used to compute your Social Security benefit.


This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org.

Comments On This Topic

  1. What’s happening with the WEP act to repeal??? It’s very important for us seniors that worked for that money to have this Windfall Elimination provision repealed!!!

    • Legislation to repeal or reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and/or a sister Social Security provision known as the Government Pension Offset (GPO) have been introduced in Congress for a number of years, including this year with Senate bill S.3401 and a companion House bill H.R. 3934. Although many Congressional Representatives “sign on” as co=sponsors, neither of these bills (nor any of their predecessor bills) have advanced beyond being “referred to committee.” And with the current vitriolic political climate, it’s doubtful any progress will be made in the immediate future. Nevertheless, AMAC has public1y supported repeal of these provisions and we continue to monitor their status in Congress.
      Russell Gloor
      National Social Security Advisor
      The AMAC Foundation

  2. I am 61 years old and my wife and I are considering moving to be close to her family in the Philippines. Should I defer taking my Social Security until 66 if we move earlier? Besides selling our house here, what do we need to do to prepare?

    • We can only answer the Social Security aspect of your questions.
      Collecting earned U.S. Social Security benefits while living in the Philippines is not a problem for U.S. citizens. Your decision on when to claim benefits should consider your health, your anticipated longevity, your need for the money, and your employment status. If you were born before 1955, your full retirement age (FRA) is 66 and that is the age at which you can get 100% of the benefit you’ve earned from a lifetime of working in the U.S. If you claim your SS before that, your benefit will be reduced actuarially according to the number of months before your FRA that you claim, but your reduced payments can be sent to a bank in the Philippines if you so choose. If you start benefits you should advise Social Security when you move to the Philippines and provide them with the bank routing information needed for deposit of your benefit payments. If you wish additional information about your Social Security options, including more information on the best age to claim, please send your questions via email to SSADVISOR@amacfoundation.org, or call us at 1.888.750.2622 to speak to one of our Social Security Advisors.
      Russell Gloor
      National Social Security Advisor
      The AMAC Foundation

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