To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, you must have earned 40 credits (typically ten years of work). You earn credits based on the amount of earnings you have in one calendar year. You can earn no more than four credits in any calendar year. The credits make you eligible, but it is your history of earnings and age that determines your actual benefits.
If you are eligible, you can begin receiving benefits at age 62. But if you receive benefits prior to full retirement age (see the section When Can You Collect Full Social Security Retirement Benefits?), you will receive a smaller monthly benefit. (Any subsequent cost-of-living increases will still be applied to your reduced benefit.) Get an estimate of your Social Security benefit by reviewing your Social Security Statement, which is sent to you annually.
SUGGESTION: If you are not already receiving Social Security Benefits, the Social Security Administration will automatically send you an annual Social Security Statement. If you have not received this statement, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for Form SSA-7004, Request for Social Security Statement. It can be requested via the Internet at www.ssa.gov.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees are not covered by the Social Security program. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees do participate in the Social Security program.