Social Security Matters: Ask Rusty – Veteran uncertain about Social Security and healthcare coverage

Published 2:24 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor, Association of Mature American Citizens 

Dear Rusty: I’m not sure what I should sign up for in terms of Social Security: I am 64 and I am still employed full time and intend to stay employed until age 70. I am retired from the Navy and receive military retirement payments, and have military TriCare, as well as medical, dental, eye and life insurance through my employer. I don’t want to lose benefits, but I also don’t want to take Social Security until it reaches the maximum at age 70 (I think that is correct?). I will turn 65 in four months. Can you advise me? Signed: Uncertain Veteran

Dear Uncertain Veteran: First of all, thank you for your service to our country. From what you’ve shared, and since you’re still working full time, not claiming Social Security yet is a smart decision. If you were born in 1959 your full retirement age (FRA) is 66 years and 10 months and, if you claim Social Security before your full retirement age, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s earning test which would likely make you ineligible to receive Social Security benefits at this time.

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The 2024 earnings limit (limit changes yearly) when collecting Social Security early is $22,320 and, if that is exceeded, Social Security will take away $1 in benefits for every $2 over the limit (half of what you exceed the limit by). If you significantly exceed the limit, Social Security will declare you temporarily ineligible to collect Social Security benefits until you either reach your FRA or earn less. The earnings test no longer applies after you reach your FRA. So, if you’re now employed full time and plan to stay so until age 70, and you expect at least average longevity (about 84 for someone your current age), delaying until age 70 to claim Social Security is how to get your maximum Social Security benefit.

As for your healthcare coverage as a veteran: TriCare requires you to enroll in Medicare Part A (inpatient hospitalization coverage) and Part B (coverage for outpatient services) at age 65, but you do not need to take Social Security when you enroll in Medicare. You must, however, enroll in Medicare at age 65 or you will lose your TriCare (military) healthcare coverage. You could choose to delay enrolling in Medicare at 65 because you have “creditable” employer coverage, but if you do so you will lose your current TriCare coverage and need to rely solely on your employer healthcare plan. In that case, you would still be able to enroll in both Medicare and TriCare-for-Life without penalty prior to your employer coverage ending and have coverage under both programs thereafter. I suggest you contact TriCare directly at 1-866-773-0404 to discuss your personal TriCare coverage after age 65. You can also go to

Whenever you enroll, Medicare will be the primary payer of your healthcare costs and TriCare will be the secondary payor. Your vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage would be through TriCare (Medicare does not cover those services) or acquired separately. Just remember, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to have TriCare-for-Life coverage after age 65.