How Do I Verify Wages From Over 40 Years Ago?

Jun 30 2020 - 3:11pm

1. Hi Larry-I am reviewing my yearly SS statement for over 40 years work of work. I can tell that my earnings in some years are not reported and I don't have paycheck stubs for those years. I do notice a pattern however. It seems like whenever I worked for a government agency (City in CA) or a university (two from CA), my wages are not recorded. How do I recover and verify wages from over 40 years ago?
2. On my 1990 SS statement it says that I earned 35 credits, but for all years after that through 2018, it says 31. In 2019, I earned a small amount of money 3,831 and my credits went back up to 35. Why did my credits go down and then up again? (I don't have SS income for 30 years because I paid into a separate pension system.) Thank you!

Hi,

Based on your description, the most likely explanation is that your government earnings were exempt from Social Security taxes. In that case, the earnings would correctly be missing from your Social Security earnings statement. The only earnings that should be included on your Social Security statement are earnings on which you paid Social Security taxes, or earnings on which you paid Medicare taxes only..

On the off chance that Social Security taxes were withheld from earnings that are missing from your Social Security earnings history, then there's very little chance that you could be credited with those earnings unless you retained proof of the earnings. The ideal proof would be a W-2 form showing that Social Security taxes were withheld from your earnings, although other evidence can potentially be used (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0301403052). Social Security has a database of earnings that weren't correctly associated with the employee involved, but most of the earnings on that database were unassociated do to an incorrect or missing Social Security number.

I can't explain the discrepancy on your statements with regard to the number of quarters of coverage (QC) that you have. If you paid Social Security taxes on earnings of $3831 in 2019, that would only give you 2 QCs. The exact number of QCs for years prior to 1978 can't be determined based on a person's yearly earnings, so if you had Social Security covered earnings prior to 1978 that might explain the discrepancy. QCs in years prior to 1978 were credited based on the amount earned in each calendar quarter, and only yearly earnings are reflected on Social Security statements. Quarterly earnings breakdowns are only available in Social Security's internal records. If you call Social Security, they should be able to access your earnings history and give you the accurate number of QCs that you've earned to date.

Best, Jerry