Social Security Signup Guide - Apply for Benefits

Social Security card featuring name John Q Public. Social Security card featuring name John Q Public. By: Social Security Administration

The Application Process

You can apply for Social Security benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your  local Social Security office. Applying online is the simplest option. You can complete your application in a single session, or have the option to finish it later. In most cases, once your online application is submitted via the web, you’re all set. The Social Security Administration(SSA) will process your application, and will contact you either by phone or mail if you need to submit any further information.    

What Do I Need To Know Before I Apply?

Before applying for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security "basics" you should know about:

  • Your full retirement age - which could affect how much you receive in benefits and when you want said benefits to start, depending on your date of birth, that may be between age 66 and 67.
  • When you can start benefits - which is as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.
  • Your monthly benefits will be reduced if you decide to start them any time before "full retirement age." Also, If you decide to receive benefits before full retirement age is met, you should know how continuing to work can affect your benefits.
  • Delayed retirement credits may be added to your benefits if they started after full retirement age is met.
  • Life expectancy - According to Social Security “Many of us will live much longer than the “average” retiree, and most women live longer than men. More than one in three 65 year olds today will live to age 90, and more than one in seven will live to age 95. Social Security benefits, which last as long as you live, provide valuable protection against outliving savings and other sources of retirement income. Again, you’ll want to choose a retirement age based on your circumstances so you’ll have enough income when you need it.”

Social Security’s Retirement Estimator can help you get a better idea of your current eligibility for retirement. 

Documents/Information Needed To Apply

You will need the following when applying for benefits:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Date and Place of Birth
  • Marriage and Divorce information (if applicable) ; Name of current spouse, and prior spouse if the marriage lasted more than 10 years and ended in death. Spouse(s) date of birth and SSN (Optional). Beginning and ending dates of marriage(s). Place of marriage(s)
  • Names and dates of Birth of Children Who:
  • Were disabled prior to 22, or are under 18 and unmarried, or aged 18 to 19 and still attending secondary school full time. 
  • U.S Military Service (if applicable). Type of duty and branch, including service period dates. 
  • Employer Details for Current and Prior 2 years (not including self-employment) Employer’s name, and the start and end dates of employment. 
  • W-2 Forms or Self Employment from last year’s tax return 
  • Direct Deposit Information (Account and Routing Number)
  • Applying in person will require original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. They can be mailed or brought in personally where they will be photocopied and returned to you. 

There isn’t any need to delay applying for retirement benefits because you do not have the documents required to apply in person. A representative at your local office will assist you.

Applying For Social Security Benefits

If you wish to apply online, and do not already have a my Social Security account setup. Click on the “Create an Account” button, and it will take you to a second page where you click “Create New Account” in the top right portion. Click “I agree to the Terms of Service” box below, and click “Next”. From there, the site will take you through the necessary steps to completing the the account creation process.

Applying Online:

  • Go to  
  • Click the “Apply for Retirement Benefits” Button. It will then take you to a page where it asks you to check the box below if you understand the above statements. Click the box and then click “Next”. 
  • The next page will ask you to create or sign into your “My Social Security” account. On this page you have the option to start a New Application or return to a Saved Application and pick up where you left off. 
  • By Clicking “Start New Application” it will take you through a series of screens, asking you questions about yourself, family and your work. 
  • Fill out the online application. If you get stuck on a question, you can skip it and return to it later. Once at the end of the application, you’ll be notified if there were any questions you still need to answer.  (If you can’t complete the application in one sitting, you can “Return to a Saved Application” later, without losing the information you entered previously.)
  • After you’ve completed the application, you’ll be asked to confirm the truthfulness of the answers, and then you will “Sign” the application electronically, by clicking “Submit Now” which will appear on the screen after you’ve finished the application. 

Applying by Phone Or In Person:

If you wish to apply by phone. Call 1-800-772(TTY1-800-325-0778) between 7 AM and 7 PM EST, Monday through Friday.

If you’d prefer to apply in person. Find local Social Security office. Type in your zip code and click submit. It will then give you the address, phone number, and business hours of your local office. You must call and make an appointment, prior to your visit. 

What Happens After I Apply?

Once Social Security receives your application, it will be reviewed. Afterwhich, they will contact you if they need more information or if they need to see your documents. They will also let you know if:

(Once Social Security has received all necessary information and documents, they’ll process your application and send you a letter about their decision in the mail.)

Checking The Status Of Your Application

You will receive a receipt of your online application, which you can print off and keep for your records. You can check the status of your online application by using the confirmation number on the receipt to check the status of your application. 

You can check the status for Social Security, Supplemental Security benefits, pending reconsiderations or hearing requests by creating or logging into your My Social Security account. 

Your Application Status Will Show

  • Your re-entry number for an online benefit application or online appeal that has not been submitted.
  • The date the application or appeal was received.
  • Scheduled hearing date and time. Current claim or appeal location (if applicable)
  • If a decision has been made. 

Appealing A Denied Claim

If you were recently denied Social Security benefits and or Supplemental Income, you may request an appeal. You have 60 days after you receive the SSA’s decision to ask for an appeal. 

Four Levels of Appeal:

  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge
  • Review by the Appeals council
  • Federal Court Review

An appeal can be requested online for a reconsideration, a hearing by an administrative law judge, and a review by the Appeals Council, even if you’re living outside of the United States. Upon the SSA’s first determination, they will send a letter explaining their determination. This letter will contain guidance on what level of appeal you should select.

If you need further information on the different levels of appeal, visit Information About Social Security's Hearings and Appeals Process. You can file an appeal over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by finding your local Social Security office, entering the zip and clicking “Submit. 

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