How to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

There are three ways by which you can apply for Social Security retirement benefits or for Medicare. You can use these options to apply for benefits for yourself, a spouse or ex-spouse. Here’s how:

  • Option 1 - Apply Online

    You can apply for Social Security retirement benefits or medicare online using the Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application form. To apply online, please use the link below:

    Apply Online

  • Option 2 - Apply In Person

    You can apply for benefits in person by visiting your local Social Security office. You will have to make an appointment. Find the Social Security office near you, including their phone number and hours of operation by clicking the link below:

    Find a Social Security Office

  • Option 3 - Apply by phone

    You can also call the Social Security Administration and apply for benefits over the phone. The number to call is:

    1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)
    Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm

What You Need to Apply

To successfully apply for Social Security benefits, you may be asked to provide the following documents during the application process. Be sure to have them ready when you apply:

  • Social Security card (or a record of your number).
  • Original birth certificate or other proof of birth. You can also submit a certified copy of your birth certificate.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • A copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty).
  • A copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.

If you do not have all the documents listed above, you should still apply and submit the documents you have now. Do not delay your application because of a missing document. That may cause you to lose some benefits you may be due. You can provide the missing documents later. The Social Security Administration may also be able to help you get the missing documents. For example, your local Social Security office may be able to contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics and verify your information online at no cost to you.

How Soon Can You Apply for Benefits?

According to Social Security Administration guidelines, applications for Social Security benefits can only be processed a maximum of four months before benefits are scheduled to begin. This means that the earliest you can apply is age 61 and 9 months, and you can expect to receive your first payment four months later, the month after your birthday.

For example, if you turn 62 on June 15th, your first full month of eligibility is July and your payment for that month will arrive in August. However, if you are already age 62 and above, you may begin collecting benefits in the same month you apply, though your first payment will be sent to you the following month after you apply.