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When To Apply

Generally, Social Security advises that you apply for retirement benefits three months before you want your benefits to begin. Although Social Security has been one of the better performing bureaucracies, with too much lead time your paper work can easily get lost. Too short a period of time before the date you want your benefits to start may not give the government enough time.

Even if you have no plans to receive Social Security Retirement benefits because you plan to continue working, it is advisable to sign-up for Medicare 3 months before age 65.

How To Apply

You can apply for Social Security Retirement Income any of three ways:

  • Online
    • You can apply for Social Security Retirement benefits online at: offsite link.  Look for the box which has the words: "To start the application process..."
    • NOTE: You have to mark a box indicating that you have read the Privacy Act Statement before you can proceed. It is advisable to read the notice to understand what can and cannot be done with the information you provide online.
  • In person at a local Social Security office
    • You can apply for Social Security Retirement benefits at any local Social Security office. You can drop in, but it is preferable to call ahead for an appointment.
    • To locate an office, go to:  offsite link  To get the address, telephone number and directions, enter your postal ZIP code.
  • On the telephone
    • Call: 800.772.1213 (if you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 800.325.0778), Monday through Friday, 7:00AM to 7:00PM. Tell the representative that you want to apply for Social Security Retirement benefits.

Before beginning the process, it is advisable to decide the date when benefits are to start. Keep in mind that the amount of the benefit may be decreased or increased if you start benefits before or after obtaining Full Retirement Age. It is also advisable to have other required information available as well as necessary documentation such as acceptable proof of your date of birth.

NOTE: Whenever possible, we recommend that you apply for Social Security in person, at your local office, rather than over the telephone. As you will see below, Social Security requires originals of documents. If you apply in person, a Social Security employee will scan or photocopy your documents and immediately return them to you. If not, you can obtain a written receipt of what you submitted. The receipt can be very helpful if your file gets lost during processing.

What You Need To Apply For Social Security Retirement benefits: 

Required Information

  • Your "Full Retirement Age." Depending on your date of birth, your Full Retirement Age is between age 65 and 67. To learn your Full Retirement Age, see: offsite link
  • When you want to start receiving benefits (the earliest is age 62. 
  • Your date and place of birth.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • If you want your benefits deposited directly into your bank: Your bank or other financial institution's Routing Transit Number and the account number.
  • The amount of money earned last year and this year. If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you will also need to estimate next year's earnings.
  • The name and address of your employer(s), if any, for this year and last year.
  • The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968.
  • The name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate)

Required Documents

  • A copy of your Social Security Statement which shows earnings and number of credits earned. If you do not have a Social Security Statement, you can request one at: offsite link The statement will be MAILED to you. (You don't have to wait for receipt of the statement to complete the application).
  • Your original birth certificate (or a certified copy issued by the issuing agency) or other proof of birth. If you don't have or can't obtain a birth certificate, Social Security will also accept an original or copy certified by the issuing agency of at least two other documents that prove your age, such as:
    • A religious record showing your age that was made before you were age 5
    • School record
    • State census record
    • Vaccination record
    • Insurance policy
    • Hospital admission record
    • Other documents
  • For help obtaining vital records, see "Where to Write for Vital Records" at offsite link

 All documents and photocopies will be returned to you unless you inform Social Security to the contrary.