For disability, survivors and SSI benefits, you should apply as soon as you're eligible. When thinking about retirement benefits, use our online Benefits Planners to check out your options. You may also want to talk to a Social Security representative in the year before the year you plan to retire. That's because the rules are complicated, and it may be to your advantage to start your retirement benefits before you actually stop working.
Where to apply: When you are ready to make your application for retirement, disability or spouse's benefits, you can do so by:
What you'll need: To show that you are eligible for Social Security and to help us decide how much your benefits should be, there are certain documents we may ask you to provide. The ones you'll need depend on the circumstances of your claim. Here is a list of some of the documents you may need when you sign up for Social Security:
- your Social Security card (or a record of your number);
- your birth certificate;
- children's birth certificates (if they are applying);
- proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you (or a child who is applying) were not born in the U.S.;
- your spouse's birth certificate and Social Security number if he or she is applying for benefits based on your record; - marriage certificate (if signing up on a spouse's record);
- your military discharge papers if you had military service; and
- your W-2 form from last year, or your last year's tax return if you're self-employed.
This is just a partial list to help you get prepared. We'll let you know if other documents are needed when you file a claim.
Here's An Important Point: You'll need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. We'll make photocopies and return your documents. If you don't have all the documents you need, don't delay signing up for Social Security. We'll help you get the information you need.