You can apply for benefits by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by visiting your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.

You can help by being ready to:

  • Provide any needed documents; and
  • Answer the questions listed below.

Documents you may need to provide

We may ask you to provide documents to determine if you may be eligible for benefits for having the child in your care:

  • Your birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • The child's birth certificate or other proof of birth or adoption;
  • Your proof of marriage if you are or were married to the worker;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [More Info];
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s); and
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.

If you are applying for disability benefits for an adult child disabled before age 22, please complete these two forms that describe your child’s medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to us:

Important

We accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns or medical documents, but we must see the original of most other documents, such as your birth certificate. We will return the documents to you.

Do not delay applying for benefits because you do not have all the documents. We will help you get them.

What we will ask you

  • Your name and Social Security number;
  • The worker's name and Social Security number;
  • The date of birth, Social Security number and relationship to the worker (i.e., legitimate child, adopted child, stepchild, dependent grandchild, other) of each child listed on the application;
  • The child’s citizenship status;
  • Whether any child 17 years of age or older is a student or is disabled;
  • If any child is the worker's stepchild, when and where the worker and the child's parent married;
  • Whether you are the child's natural or adoptive parent;
  • Whether any child has a legal guardian;
  • Whether any child has been adopted by someone other than the worker;
  • Whether the children live with you and whether they lived with the worker during each of the last 13 months;
  • Whether any child has ever been married and, if so, the dates and locations of the marriages and how and when they ended;
  • Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on behalf of the child(ren). (If so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied);
  • The amount of each child's earnings for this year, last year and next year;
  • The dates of adoption for any children adopted by the worker;
  • Whether you have ever been convicted of a felony;
  • Whether a child age 13 or older has any unsatisfied felony warrants for their arrest or unsatisfied Federal or State warrants for their arrest for any violations of the conditions of their parole or probation; and
  • Whether you ever served as a representative payee for someone's Social Security benefits.

If the worker is deceased, we will also ask you:

  • The worker's date of birth and his or her name at birth (if different);
  • The worker's date of death and the place of death;
  • The State or foreign country of the worker's fixed permanent residence at the time of death;
  • Whether the worker was unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time during the 14 months before his or her death. (If "Yes," we will also ask you for the date he or she became unable to work.);
  • Whether the worker was in the active military service before 1968 or ever worked for the railroad industry. (If so, we will ask you for the dates of service and whether he or she ever received a pension from a military or Federal civilian agency.);
  • Whether the worker earned Social Security credits under another country's Social Security system;
  • Whether the worker was employed or self-employed in all years from 1978 through last year;
  • How much the worker earned in the year of death and the year before death;
  • Whether the worker ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income. (If so, we will ask for information on whose Social Security record he or she applied.); and
  • Whether each child was living with the worker at the time of death.

Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.

Note

You also should have with you your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.