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Back Pay

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

1323. Back Pay

1323.1 What is "back pay"?

"Back pay" is pay you receive in one period for actual employment in an earlier period. Back pay under statute is payment that is required by law, such as the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other Federal and State laws. The purpose of back pay is to create an employment relationship or to protect employees' rights to wages.

1323.2 Does back pay count as wages?

Back pay, except penalties, interest, or legal expenses paid under a statute, is wages if it is paid for covered employment. For Social Security purposes, back pay may be assigned to the periods in which it should have been paid.

Back pay not under a statute is wages if it is extra pay for past employment. Back pay not under a statute is not assigned to any period other than the period in which it is paid.

Last Revised: March, 2001

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There are 4 Comments

me and my mom and brether are geting seriver benfit and i get tered 18 and i got a chek and i dont know wiy i got it the was no later to egplant it im in school to peles hele yiy i got this cheke

If you have worked all your adult life and benefits would be around 1300.00 dollars a month if I retired at 65, my question is if my company buys me out now at age 52, and I do not find a job at my current wage, with making less money yearly for the next 10 to 12 years how will that effect my SS benefits.

Having higher average earnings will give you higher Social Security retirement benefits, but the benefit increase is not proportional to your higher wages. In your case, if you already have 25 years of relatively high wages, followed by 13 years of lower wages, your retirement benefits may not go down that much.

Social Security uses the highest 35 years of indexed earnings in a benefit computation, along with two "bend points" that reduce the effectiveness of higher wages on retirement benefits.

Probably a bigger factor affecting your retirement benefits which is under your control is your ability to delay receipt of retirement benefits.

For example, see this scenario :

It shows a scenario where one worker A has high early earnings, low late earnings, but retires early. Worker B has low early wages, high late wages, but retires later. Worker A winds up ahead in monthly benefits with $1,510 vs. $1,605 for worker B.

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