During years you work under Social Security, your wages are posted to your Social Security record, and you receive Social Security earnings credits based on those wages. These credits are used later to determine your eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits or for disability or survivors benefits if you should become disabled or die.

Earning Social Security credits is a concern not only during current employment but also for prospective future employment after separating from the federal government either to continue working or to retire. CSRS-covered employees especially are interested in this issue because they may wish to work for a certain period after retirement in order to earn enough Social Security credits to draw benefits from that system.

That concern is not as significant for employees under CSRS-Offset or FERS because they earn Social Security credits during their government careers. It could be a concern for those who have relatively short working careers, however—for example, those who entered the working world later in life or who had long disruptions of their working careers that could make them fall short of the credits needed.

To gain credits, you must be paying into the Social Security system. It usually is listed on pay stubs as the “Social Security” or “FICA” deduction. If you are unsure, go to the SSA website to get a benefits estimate; it will show your record of Social Security-credited earnings.