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How to File for Benefits
How to Apply
Applications for Social Security Retirement Benefits can now be filed on-line at our national Web site. Applications for all Social Security benefits can be filed in person at any Social Security office, or by phone. You can arrange for an appointment to file your application by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TDD 1-800-325-0778). An appointment is not required, but may reduce the amount of time you spend waiting in the office.
When to Apply
If you are applying for Retirement benefits, you may apply as early as four months in advance of the month you expect to retire, but no earlier than 3 months before you are age 62. However, you should apply no later than the month you want your benefits to start.
Applications for Disability benefits should be filed as soon as possible after the onset of your disability. If approved for Disability benefits, payments would not begin until the sixth full month of your disability. This "waiting period" begins with the first full month after the date you are found to be disabled.
To receive Survivor benefits on the record of a deceased, insured worker, you should apply promptly because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive. If you are already receiving benefits as a wife or husband on your spouse's record when he or she dies, you should report the death to Social Security and we will change your payments to survivor benefits.
We need certain information to process your application. It's helpful if you have it when you apply. But don't delay applying if you don't have everything. We will help you get the information you need. We need either original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. Your documents will be returned to you after we have reviewed them.
The information needed includes:
The National Center for Health Statistics Web Site maintains information about where to write for vital records (i.e., birth and death and marriage certificates, divorce records) and the cost.
The claims process for Disability benefits is generally longer than for other types of Social Security benefits - from 60 to 90 days. It takes longer to obtain medical information and to assess the nature of the disability in terms of your ability to work. However, you can help shorten the process by bringing certain documents with you when you apply and helping us to get any other necessary medical evidence. These include:
How to Apply
Applications for SSI payments can be filed in person at any Social Security office, or by phone. You can arrange for an appointment to file your application by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TDD 1-800-325-0778). An appointment is not required, but may reduce the amount of time you spend waiting in the office.
A Social Security representative will interview you and complete the forms with information you give. You or your representative will have to sign the form.
Parents or guardians can apply for a child under age 18. If you need an interpreter to conduct Social Security business, we will supply one on request, free of charge. If you want us to supply the interpreter, please call us before you come to the office and tell us what language you prefer to speak.
When to Apply
You should apply for SSI as soon as possible. The date you contact the Social Security Administration about applying for SSI is the earliest date from which benefits can be paid.
What We Will Ask You
To decide whether you can receive SSI, we will ask you about your income, the things you own (resources), your living arrangements (i.e., where you live, with whom, who pays for things, etc.) and your citizenship or alien status. If you are applying because you are disabled, we will also ask about your health problems and how they affect your daily activities and ability to work.
Direct Deposit is the preferred method for paying SSI benefits. We will ask you your bank account number so that we can arrange to have your benefits deposited directly into your account.
What to Bring with You to File
You may not need all of the documents below, but it can help if you have the following things when you apply. Even if you do not have all of the things listed below, apply anyway. We can help you get whatever is needed.
The National Center for Health Statistics Web Site maintains information about where to write for birth certificates and the cost.
How SSI Claims Are Processed
The Social Security Administration takes applications and evaluates evidence of identity, income, resources and other nonmedical factors of eligibility. We also determine if a representative payee is needed and, if so, appoint one.
For a person 65 or over, the Social Security Administration determines eligibility. If a medical determination of the claimant's disability is needed, it is made by the State disability determination service (DDS). The DDS reviews all medical evidence submitted and requests additional evidence if needed.
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Last reviewed or modified Monday Jan 14, 2008