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Howard Kossover: Those at full retirement age won’t get benefit reduction for working

Q: Why is there an earnings limit for Social Security retirement?

A: According to the SSA website,, the retirement earnings test, also called the annual earnings test, was in the original 1935 bill submitted by President Roosevelt to Congress. 

That bill language stated, “No person shall receive such old-age annuity unless… He is not employed by another in a gainful occupation.”

The retirement earnings test provision was important because actuarial calculations underlying the bill were based on a retirement test being in the law.

Retirement test provisions remained in the final version of the Social Security Act of 1935.  Changes were made to the retirement test over many years.  It was first scaledback in the 1950 Amendments, exempting workers at least age 75.  The exempt age was reduced to 72 in 1954, and to age 70 and older in 1977.

The Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act of 2000, signed into law by President Clinton, was a historic change, eliminating the retirement earnings test for people at or above their full retirement age (FRA) and effectively repealing the requirement that a person be substantially retired in order to receive full SSA retirement benefits.

The retirement test still applies to people below FRA.

Did you know?  The recent publication, OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2012 ( provides Social  Security retirement, survivors and disability data, including type of benefit, numbers of beneficiaries and amounts paid in each state to the county level (OASDI = Old age, survivors and disability insurance).

Individual state data starts with national data so you must scroll down for state and county details. How much money from Social  Security comes into your state and county?

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at