How do I apply for social security retirement?

If you are considering applying for social security benefits, there are several methods you can use. Find out how to apply for social security retirement.

3 min read

As you approach retirement, one of the biggest decisions you will make is how and when to apply for social security retirement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides various ways of applying for social security, and you will have to decide which option is convenient for you.

You can apply for social security retirement either online on the SSA’s website, by calling the toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or by applying with your local Social Security office. If you live outside the US or its territories, you can contact the Federal Benefits Unit in your country of residence.

How to apply for Social Security

If you are eligible for Social Security benefits, you can apply for these benefits using the following methods:

Apply online

You can apply for retirement benefits on the Social Security website. Follow these steps to start a new application:

  • Go to the "Apply for Benefits" page,  read and agree to the terms of service.
  • Click next to view the "Getting Ready" page to confirm that you have all the information needed for the application.
  • Select "Start a new application" and fill in the required information, and you will be prompted to sign in to your account or create a new Social Security account.

Once you have submitted all the information needed, complete the application, and the application will be sent to Social security for processing.

Call the toll-free number

If you are unable to access the online application, you can apply for social security by phone. Call the Social Security Administration via the toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY at 1-800-325-0778) from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm Monday through Friday.

Contact the nearest Federal Benefits Unit

If you live outside the United States or a US territory, you can visit the nearest Federal Benefits Unit in your country of residence to apply for social security.

What documents do you need for social security?

There are various documents that you may need to provide to receive social security. Some of these documents include:

  • Social security card
  •  Original birth certificate
  • Proof of US Citizenship or alien status if you were born outside the US.
  • Copy of W-2 Form and/or self-employment tax return for the past year.
  • Copy of military papers if you had military service before 1968.
  • Marriage, divorce, and death certificate.
  • Bank account information
  • Spouse’s social security number and date of birth if you are applying as a former spouse.

If you had submitted some of these documents for an earlier Social Security or Medicare claim, you won’t be required to provide the specific documents again.

What happens if you don’t have all the required documents?

If you don't have all the documents needed when applying for social security, you will still be able to proceed and complete the application without the documents. You are allowed to provide the missing documents during the application process.

If some cases, you can contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics to help you verify your information and find the missing documents.

At what age can you apply for Social Security?

You can apply for social security when you reach age 62. Based on SSA guidelines, individuals who were born on the 1or 2day of the month become eligible in the month of their 62 birthday. However, if you were born on any other day of the month after the 2day of the month, you won’t become eligible until the following month.

Social security allows individuals to apply for social security earlier once they reach 61 years and 9 months. For example, if you turn 62 on December 1 and you want to start receiving social security in December, you can apply as early as August. However, if you turn 62 after December 2, you do not become 62 until the following month. In this case, you will have to wait until January when you will be 62 for the entire month to start receiving social security benefits. Therefore, you can apply for social security in September to receive benefits in January of the following year.

What happens after you apply for social security?

Once you have submitted your social security application, the SSA will start processing your application. Here is what to do after you send your application:

Check your mail

Once the SSA has reviewed your application, you will receive a Notice of Decision letter in your mail. The SSA will tell you whether your application has been approved or rejected. In some cases, you may receive a direct deposit from Social Security before the letter has arrived. SSA may also request additional documents before it can process your application.

Track account status

Once SSA decides on your application, you can check the status of the application in your personal “my social security account”. You can also call the toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to know the status of your application from Monday through Friday, 8.00 am to 7.00 pm.

Appeal SSA decision

If you are not satisfied with the SSA decision, you can appeal the decision within 60 days after receiving the SSA decision. You can appeal the decision for review by Social Security, before an administrative law judge, by Social Security Appeal's Council, or by the federal courts.