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Social Security Expands Its Online Benefit Application to Include Spouse's Benefits

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) has expanded its online Benefit Application, the online application that has allowed users to apply for Social Security Retirement benefits since November 2000, to include the ability to apply for Social Security Spouse's benefits.
  • Effective April 2001, wives and husbands of individuals applying for retirement benefits may also apply for spouse's benefits online.
    • By completing one application, an individual can apply for their own retirement benefit, or a spouse's benefit or, if eligible for both, their own retirement benefit and their benefit as the spouse of a retired worker.
      • Approximately 700,000 people apply for spouse's benefits annually.
      • Approximately 47 percent of those who apply for spouse's benefits are also eligible for a retirement benefit based on their own work. By using the Internet application process, these individuals will only need to complete and sign one application for both benefits.
  • The Internet application allows individuals to apply for their retirement and spouse's benefits at their convenience.
    • Interested individuals can now apply for Social Security retirement and spouse's benefits online at -- Social Security Online -- Social Security's Internet site; or
  • To use this service, people must be 61 years and nine months or older and plan to start receiving benefits within four months. SSA advises people to file for benefits three months before they want their benefits to begin.
  • Applicants must meet certain criteria to apply for benefits using the online application:
    • They must also reside in the United States or one of its territories,
    • Have a working printer connected to their computer, and
    • Agree to receive their benefits by direct deposit.
    • Individuals who are currently receiving Social Security benefits or have already applied for retirement or disability benefits with Social Security will not be able to use the online service.
  • Answers to several screening questions will determine whether or not a person can proceed and file for retirement and/or spouse's benefits over the Internet. Those who meet the conditions are presented with information describing the application process and then move on to the actual application. Various online screens will be presented and individuals are asked to answer a number of questions as they navigate through the online application.
  • The answers provided on the screens are used by SSA to make an entitlement determination on an individual's claim for Social Security Retirement and/or Spouse's Benefits.
  • Upon completion of the online application, a person's application is electronically sent to SSA. At this point, individuals must print the application, sign it, and mail or bring it to the address provided by SSA.
  • Along with the signed application, applicants must also submit any applicable documentation needed to process their claim, such as:

    • Birth certificate
    • W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year
    • Military discharge papers (if there is military service)
  • A Claim Confirmation Number is provided to every applicant. The confirmation number can be used to:

    • Update an application that has not been finished;
    • Check on the status of the application once it has been sent to SSA; and
    • Register a password with SSA to do additional business online in the future.

May 2001

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