How to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

If you have reviewed the requirements and decided that you may be eligible and want to receive Social Security benefits, it is time to apply.

However, before jumping into the application, you will want to gain an understanding of how you should go about filling out an application for Social Security benefits. Depending on the type of Social Security benefits you are eligible to receive, you may have to wait for a specific time before you can start the application. There are also a few different methods available for completing the application and certain information that must be provided in order for your eligibility to be determined. To learn more about the timing of the application and more, read the information provided below.

When to Apply For Social Security Benefits

If you are applying for Social Security benefits through retirement, the earliest that you can apply is when you have reached the age of 61 years and 9 months old. This is because retirement benefits can only be obtained when you are 62 years of age, and the application process can take a few months to complete. Because of the few months it takes for the application to be fully processed and benefits to be awarded, it is recommended that you apply for Social Security four months before you want to start receiving benefits.

Although Social Security retirement benefits cannot be obtained until you have reached a certain age, you may apply for Social Security disability benefits or Social Security spouse or child’s benefits at any time that you are eligible. For example, disability benefits can be applied for only once you have officially been disabled and are no longer able to work.

Information Needed on the Social Security Application

The information that you must provide on your application for Social Security benefits does vary depending on the type of Social Security benefits you are interested in receiving. Certain documentation must be provided in order for the Social Security office to determine whether or not you are eligible and what amount of benefits you qualify for.

All Social Security benefits applications will require the following documents to be provided:

  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status
  • U.S. military discharge paperwork if applicable
  • W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for previous year

In addition to the information highlighted above that is required for all applications, there is also additional information that is needed for each of the specific types of Social Security benefits. This information is as follows:

  • Retirement benefits

To qualify for retirement Social Security benefits, you must provide the following: Social Security number, copy of Social Security Statement, income earned last year and current year, name and address of employer(s) from last year and current year, the month you want your benefits to start, and your bank account information.

  • Disability benefits

Qualifying for disability benefits through Social Security requires you to provide: an adult disability report, medical evidence, proof of any workers’ compensation-type benefits if applicable. You will also be asked a long series of questions that includes details about when you first experienced disability, the names of any minor children residing in your household, information on your marriage(s) if applicable, and more.

  • Spouse or ex-spouse benefits

In addition to needing the information listed above for all forms of Social Security benefits, you will also need to provide a few more pieces of documentation to have your eligibility for spouse or ex-spouse benefits considered. You must provide a marriage certificate, and if you are applying as a divorced spouse, a final divorce decree. Be prepared to provide information such as the Social Security numbers of any spouses, employer information and the names of any minor children residing in your household.

  • Child/survivor benefits

If you are applying to receive survivor benefits, you must provide the worker’s date of birth and date of death. Also, additional information regarding the worker including Social Security number, employment history, and any disability information will be required as well. If you are applying for a child to receive benefits, you must provide the child’s personal information including whether or not that child has a legal guardian, whether the child lives with you, and what the child’s citizenship status is as well.

Where to Apply For Social Security Benefits

There are a few different methods available for filling out an application for Social Security benefits. The options do vary depending on the type of benefits you are attempting to apply for. Once you have determined which options are available to you, the choice is yours when deciding where to go to apply for benefits depending on what is most convenient.

  • Online

Submitting an online application for Social Security benefits is secure and efficient. This method can be completed if you are applying for retirement, disability, spouse’s and ex-spouses benefits. However, you cannot apply for survivors or children’s benefits online; that application must be completed over the phone or in-person.

  • Phone

Applications can also be completed over the phone for any type of Social Security benefits by dialing 1-800-772-1213. Also, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call the Social Security office through TTY by dialing 1-800-325-0778. This option allows you to speak with a representative and ask any questions that you may have.

  • In-Person

You may also apply for any Social Security benefits in-person at your local Social Security office. This option is beneficial if you wish to have the assistance of a representative when completing the application. Before you go to your local Social Security office to submit an application be sure to call and set up an appointment ahead of time.

  • How to Apply While Abroad

If you are not currently located inside the United States, you can still apply for Social Security benefits. The options available include locating a U.S. consulate or embassy and applying in-person, or you can call the phone numbers listed above if you speak English. However, please note that calling from outside the U.S. is not toll-free. Lastly, you may be able to submit an application online or through the mail.

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