CDPAP Resources

How to Apply for Social Security

How to Apply for Social Security

What is Social Security?

Social Security is a social insurance program in the United States that provides financial assistance to eligible individuals and families. The program is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a federal agency. Social Security was established to play a crucial role in providing financial security and support for retirees, individuals with disabilities, and surviving family members; an essential component of the social safety net in the United States.

Who is eligible for Social Security?

Social Security eligibility depends on the type of benefits you are applying for. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides several types of benefits, and each has its own set of eligibility criteria. Here are the primary types of Social Security benefits and the general eligibility requirements for each:

1. Retirement Benefits

To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, you typically need to:

  • Be at least 62 years old.
  • Have earned a minimum number of work credits through your employment covered by Social Security. Work credits are earned based on your annual income, and you can earn a maximum of four credits per year.

Note that the age at which you can receive full retirement benefits varies based on your birth year. Full retirement age ranges from 65 to 67 years.

2. Disability Benefits

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you generally need to:

  • Have a medical condition that prevents you from working and is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
  • Have earned a sufficient number of work credits. The amount of work credits required depends on your age at the onset of the disability.

The application process for disability benefits includes a thorough evaluation of your medical condition and its impact on your ability to work.

3. Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are available to certain family members of a deceased worker. To be eligible for survivor benefits, you typically need to be:

  • A surviving spouse who is at least 60 years old (50 if disabled) or caring for a qualifying child.
  • A surviving divorced spouse meeting specific criteria.
  • Dependent children under the age of 18 (or up to 19 if a full-time student).

The deceased worker must have earned sufficient work credits for family members to be eligible for survivor benefits.

4. Dependent Benefits

Children and certain family members of a retired or disabled worker may be eligible for dependent benefits. Eligibility criteria include being unmarried and:

  • Under the age of 18.
  • A full-time student under the age of 19.
  • Disabled before the age of 22 and still disabled.

Dependent benefits are typically a percentage of the worker’s benefit amount.

5. Medicare Benefits

Medicare, a federal health insurance program, is linked to Social Security eligibility. Most individuals become eligible for Medicare at age 65, and enrollment usually occurs automatically if you’re already receiving Social Security benefits.

It’s important to note that eligibility rules and requirements may change, and individual circumstances can vary. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on Social Security eligibility, it is recommended to visit the official Social Security Administration website or contact your local Social Security office.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

Applying for Social Security benefits is a straightforward process. It can be done online, by phone, or in person. Here are the general steps to apply for Social Security benefits:

1. Determine Eligibility:

Before applying, ensure that you are eligible for Social Security benefits. Eligibility criteria typically include age, disability, or survivor status. You can check your eligibility on the official Social Security Administration (SSA) website.

2. Gather Necessary Documents:

Collect the required documents, such as your Social Security number, birth certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status, W-2 forms, and any other relevant financial or medical records.

3. Choose the Right Benefit:

Decide on the type of Social Security benefit you are applying for. Common types include retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor benefits. You can find information about the different types of benefits on the SSA website.

4. Apply Online:

The most convenient way to apply for Social Security benefits is through the official SSA website. Create a “my Social Security” account if you don’t already have one, and complete the online application. The online application is available for retirement and Medicare benefits. Visit the Social Security Administration to Apply for Benefits.

5. Apply by Phone:

You can apply for benefits by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

Representatives can assist you with the application process.

6. Apply in Person:

If you prefer to apply in person, you can visit your local Social Security office. To find the nearest office, use the SSA’s Office Locator tool.

7. Follow-Up on Your Application:

After submitting your application, you can check the status of your claim using your online account. The SSA will also send you updates by mail or email.

8. Provide Additional Information if Required:

Be prepared to provide additional information or attend interviews if requested by the Social Security Administration. They may require more details to process your application.

9. Receive Benefits:

If your application is approved, you will start receiving your Social Security benefits. The amount and timing of payments depend on the type of benefit you applied for.

It’s important to apply for Social Security benefits in a timely manner, especially if you are approaching retirement age or are in need of disability benefits. If you have specific questions or need assistance, you can contact the Social Security Administration or consult with a local Social Security office.