Preparing to Apply for Benefits

If you have never read any information about Social Security or talked to one of our representatives, you may need some background information about the benefits themselves before going ahead with the application. We want to be sure you are able to answer all of the questions.

Who Can Use This Application

You can use this application to apply for

  • Social Security retirement or spouses benefits. You must:
    • be at least 61 years and 9 months old and
    • want to start your benefits in the next four months.

    Note: If you are:

    • Already age 62, your benefits could start as early as this month.
    • Almost 65, your application for benefits will include Medicare.

  • Medicare. To apply for Medicare only, you:
    • must be at least 64 years and 9 months old,
    • must want to sign up for Medicare but not currently have any Medicare coverage, and
    • should not want to start receiving Social Security benefits at this time. (If you aren't sure, you can apply for Medicare now and apply online for benefits later.)

    Note: If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or health insurance based on current employment, you may want to ask your personnel office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect you.

Applying For Retirement Benefits

If you are applying for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security "basics" you should know. The most important one is knowing your "full retirement age." Depending on your date of birth, it may be between age 65 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want the benefits to start.

You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, your monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before "full retirement age."

If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.

You should also be aware that credits may be added to your benefits if they start after your full retirement age.

If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between.

Please read Other Things to Consider for information about other things you should think about when you make your decision about when to begin your benefits. Some of the things you should think about before you decide include

Applying For Medicare Benefits

You can also use this application to apply for Medicare if you are at least 64 and 9 months old. However, you do not need to apply for monthly retirement or spouses benefits to sign up for Medicare.

If you are not ready to start your monthly cash benefits in the next four months, you can sign up just for Medicare at this time and apply for your retirement or spouses benefits later.

If you decide to apply only for Medicare, be sure that you understand how waiting until later to receive your cash benefits will affect your overall retirement financial situation.

Note

If you already have Medicare Part A and wish to sign up for Medicare Part B, you cannot use this Internet application. Please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office.

Steps In Applying For Benefits

Here is what you need to do to apply for benefits online.

  1. Fill out the online application.
    After you fill out the application, you will be asked to confirm the truthfulness of your answers under penalty of perjury and your response will be recorded. You can be held liable by law for providing false or misleading information.

  2. "Sign" the application electronically by clicking on the "Submit Now" button that will appear on the screen after you have finished filling out the application.

    The only person who can "sign" the application is the person who is applying for benefits. A legal representative or person helping cannot sign the application.

  3. Submit any documents we may need to a Social Security office.

If you can't complete your online application for any reason, you will be able to 'continue your application later' without losing the information you entered.

What Happens After I Apply?

Once we receive your application, we'll review it. After the review, we will contact you if we need more information or if we need to see your documents.

We'll also let you know if

When we have all of the necessary information and documents, we'll process your application and send you a letter about our decision in the mail.

Information You Need To Apply For Benefits

We suggest you have the following information when you apply. It will make completing the application much easier.

Information about you

  • Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;
  • The name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate).
  • The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968; and
  • Your bank or other financial institution's Routing Transit Number and the account number [more info], if you want the benefits electronically deposited.

Information about your work

  • The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;
  • The amount of money earned last year and this year. If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you will also need to estimate next year's earnings; and
  • A copy of your Social Security Statement or a record of your earnings. If you do not have a Statement, you can view your Social Security Statement online by creating an account and signing in with us.

    Even if you do not have a record of your earnings or you are not sure if they are correct, please fill out the application. We will help you review your earnings history when we receive the application.

Note: If you are outside the U.S., we may need to know if you worked or will be working over 45 hours a month outside the United States.

Documents You May Need To Provide

We may need to see certain documents in order to pay benefits. A list of documents we need to see will appear at the end of the application, along with instructions on where to submit them. The documents we may ask for are:

  • your original birth certificate or other proof of birth [more info] (You may also submit a copy of your birth certificate certified by the issuing agency).;
  • proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [more info];
  • a copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; [more info]; and
  • a copy of your W-2 form(s) [more info] and/or self-employment tax return [more info] for last year.

Note: If our records show that documents proving age or citizenship/lawful alien status have already been submitted for an earlier Medicare or Social Security claim (such as Disability, Supplemental Security Income, etc.), you do not need to submit the documents again.

We will return all documents and photocopies unless specifically told otherwise.

How To Contact Us

If you cannot use this application or you decide not to complete an application over the Internet, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) , or visit a Social Security Office to make an appointment.

Note: Generally, if you call, you’ll have a shorter wait time during the week after Tuesday.  

If you or the person you are helping lives outside the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.

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