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Retirement & Medicare
Retirement Planner SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home

Qualify and Apply

Filing for Benefits Online

If you qualify, you can apply for retirement benefits online

If you apply, please be ready to supply the information we need to approve your application for these benefits:

We may also ask you to provide certain documents to show that you are eligible.


Find out if you are eligible for Social Security Benefits

To help identify all the different Social Security programs for which you may be eligible, use our Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST).

Who is eligible for retirement

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need to have worked for at least 10 years to be eligible for retirement benefits. If you're eligible for retirement benefits, some members of your family also can receive benefits.

When you can retire

If you were born before 1938, your "full retirement age" is 65. Because of longer life expectancies, the "full retirement age" is increasing for people born after 1937.

You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but the amount you receive each month will be less than if you wait until full retirement age.


How your retirement age affects your benefits

To find out how much you can collect at different ages, use our Benefit Calculators.

You should apply for benefits about three months before the date you want your benefits to start.

If you are not quite ready to retire, but are thinking about doing so in the near future, our Retirement Planner will help you prepare. If you plan to continue working after you reach age 62, it may be to your advantage to start your retirement benefits before you stop working.


Retirement benefits and divorce

If you divorced after at least 10 years of marriage, you can collect retirement benefits on your former spouse's Social Security record if you are at least age 62 and your former spouse is entitled to or receiving benefits.

If your former spouse is eligible for retirement benefits but has not yet applied, you may still be able to collect benefits on his or her record if you are at least age 62 and have been divorced for at least two years.

If you remarry before age 60, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends.

For more details, read Benefits for your divorced spouse.


Benefits for children of retirees

Social Security dependents' benefits are payable for your unmarried children under age 18, or age 19 if they're still in high school, or to your children age 18 or older who were severely disabled before age 22 and who continue to be disabled.

Benefits can continue to be paid into adulthood if your child has a disability that began prior to age 22.


Working after retirement

Once you reach full retirement age, there is no limit on the amount you can earn while collecting Social Security benefits. Before full retirement age, your payments may be reduced depending on the amount you earn.

Medicare and retirement

If you are getting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, your Medicare hospital benefits start automatically.

If you are not getting Social Security, you should sign up for Medicare close to your 65th birthday, even if you aren't ready to retire.


Leaving the United States

If you are a United States citizen, you can travel or live in most foreign countries without affecting your eligibility for Social Security benefits.

If you work outside the United States after you start receiving benefits, the rules about working after retirement may be different.


How to apply for Retirement Benefits

You can apply:

When you apply, please be ready to supply the information we need to approve your application for these benefits:

We may ask you to provide certain documents to show that you are eligible and help us decide how much your benefits should be. If you do not have a birth certificate, you may request one from the state where you were born. For details on where to write in your state, check Where to Write for Vital Records.

Also, bring along your bank information so you can sign up for Direct Deposit.


For more details

For more details, read our Retirement Benefits booklet or use our online Retirement Planner.

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Last reviewed or modified Thursday Jun 19, 2008
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