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How To Apply For Social Security and Retirement Benefits

When To Apply

Generally, we advise people to apply for retirement benefits 3 months before they want their benefits to begin. Even if you have no plans to receive benefits, you should still sign-up for Medicare 3 months before age 65.

How To Apply

You can apply for retirement benefits online. Connect to the Social Security Benefit application and follow the instructions.

You can also apply by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. Our representatives there can make an appointment for your application to be taken over the telephone or at any convenient Social Security office.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free "TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. on Monday through Friday.


What You Need

When you apply for benefits, you will need the following information:

  • your Social Security number;
  • your birth certificate;
  • your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year;
  • your military discharge papers if you had military service;
  • your spouse's birth certificate and Social Security number if he or she is applying for benefits;
  • children's birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if applying for children's benefits;
  • proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you (or a spouse or child is applying for benefits) were not born in the U.S.; and
  • the name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account.

You will need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. We will make photocopies and return your documents.

If you do not have a birth certificate, you may request one from the State where you were born. See Where to Write for Vital Records for details on where to write in your State.

When You Will Receive Benefits

A person who meets all other requirements for entitlement can receive benefits beginning with the first full month he or she is age 62. However, if benefits begin before age 65, they are reduced to account for the longer period over which they will be paid. Choosing the month you start to get benefits is an important decision. Our representatives will be glad to discuss it with you and answer any questions you may have.

Estimating Your Retirement Benefit

The Social Security Statement shows your Social Security earnings history and how much Social Security taxes you have paid into the program. It also estimates your future benefits and tells you how to qualify for those benefits. The Social Security Statement is a free service of the Social Security Administration.

Some publications online that will give you more information on retirement benefits:

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Last reviewed or modified Monday Jan 14, 2008
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