At some point those of us in the U.S. will decide it is time to begin our Social Security benefits. The Social Security Application Process is straight forward. But you need to be aware of when you can and should apply to receive your benefit by any specific date that you have in mind. Below are the “ins and outs” of applying for your Social Security. Including what information you need to have available, how to apply, and finally when you should fill out the application to apply for your benefit.
The Social Security Application Process – Required Information and Documents.
Required Information about you
- Your birth date, your place of birth and your Social Security number.
- Spouse information. Both current and any former spouses. Spouse(s) name and their Social Security number. The date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. When and where your marriage(s) took place. The dates of divorce or death (when appropriate).
- If applicable, the names of any unmarried children under age 18, age 18-19 and in secondary school or disabled before age 22.
- Your bank or other financial institution’s Routing Transit Number and your Account Number. These details are needed if you choose to have automatic deposit of your monthly Social Security check.
- Your citizenship status.
- Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf. If so, they will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied.
- Whether you have used any other Social Security number.
- If you are applying for retirement benefits, the month you want your benefits to begin.
- If you are within 3 months of age 65, whether you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Part B of Medicare).
Information about your paid work
- The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year.
- The amount of money you earned last year and this year (the year you are applying). If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you will also need to estimate next year’s earnings.
- A copy of your Social Security Statement or a record of your earnings. If you do not have a Statement, you can view your Social Security Statement online by creating an account and signing up with them. Even if you do not have a record of your earnings or you are not sure if they are correct, go ahead and still fill out the application. They will help you review your earnings when you apply.
- The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968.
- Whether you became unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time within the past 14 months. If “Yes,” they will also ask the date you became unable to work.
- Whether you or your spouse have ever worked for the railroad industry.
- Whether you have earned Social Security credits under another country’s social security system.
- Whether you qualified for or expect to receive a pension or annuity based on your own employment with the Federal government of the United States or one of its States or local subdivisions.
Documents That You Need to Provide
The Social Security Administration may need to see certain documents in order to pay you your benefits. If you apply online, a list of documents they need to see will appear at the end of the application. Along with instructions on where to submit them. The documents they may ask for are:
- Your original birth certificate or other proof of birth. [more info] (You may also submit a copy of your birth certificate certified by the issuing agency).
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [more info].
- A copy of your U.S. military service paper(s). (e.g., DD-214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; [more info].
- A copy of your W-2 form(s) [more info] and/or self-employment tax return [more info] for last year.
What to do if you can’t find all necessary documentation
Even if you don’t have all the documents they need you should still submit your application and any documents you do have. You can provide the missing documents later. They may be able to help you get them.
In many cases, your local Social Security office can contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics and verify your information online at no cost to you. If they can’t verify your information online. They can still help you get the information you need.
If you delay submitting the application, you could lose some benefits you may be due.
Mailing your Documents
If you mail any documents to the SSA, you must include your Social Security number. That is for the SSA to match them with the correct application. Do not write anything on the original documents. Please write the Social Security number on a separate sheet of paper and include it in the mailing envelope along with the required documents. If you do not want to mail these documents, you can take them to a Social Security office.
Do not mail foreign birth records or any documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Especially those you (the applicant) are required to keep with you at all times. These documents are extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive to replace if lost. Some cannot be replaced. Instead, bring them to a Social Security office where they will be examined and returned.
The Social Security Application Process – How to apply
You have three application choices
When it comes time for you to apply for your Social Security retirement benefits, you will have three options.
- You can use the Social Security Administration’s online application. Be sure that you have all of your required information and documentation (see above). Doing so should keep the online option taking no more than 30 minutes to complete.
- You can apply by phone. Again, be sure that you have all of your required documentation and information.
- You can apply in person at your local Social Security office if you would like to have someone with the Social Security Administration help you through the process. Remember to take all of your required documentation and information with you.
Whichever of the three application methods you prefer using, your application is reviewed and processed once all your necessary documentation and information has been received.
The Social Security Administration will automatically let you know if you qualify for higher benefits based on your spouse’s record. They will also alert you if other family members qualify to receive benefits based on your paid work record.
The Social Security Application Process – When you should fill out the application
You must be at least 61 years and nine months old to be able to submit a Social Security application for benefits. However benefits will not begin until you turn age 62. Once reaching the minimum age of 62 for Social Security eligibility, you can apply. This will begin your Social Security benefits in the same month. It isn’t necessary to apply early unless you know there will be delay due to missing documentation or some other unique circumstance. The Social Security Administration recommends that you apply for your Social Security benefits no more than four months before the date you want your Social Security benefits to begin.
Social Security benefits are paid a month in the rears. In other words, beginning your benefits on your 62nd birthday means you will receive your first Social Security payment in the following month.
Even though you can file for your benefit at the age 0of 62. The Social Security Administration and many Financial Planners recommend delaying your application if you don’t need your Social Security payments right way. This should be considered as it will result in an increase in your monthly payments once you do begin your Social Security benefit.
When does Medicare come into play?
Regardless of whether you decide to delay claiming your Social Security benefits, you should still complete and turn in the benefit application three months before you turn 65 in order to apply for Medicare. By earning enough Social Security credits (available on your SS statement), you qualify for Medicare. Whether you are ready to begin your Social Security benefits or not. Be warned. Delaying your Medicare application may cause you to have higher premium cost.
Aside from the information needed about the Application Process for your Social Security. There should be decisions made long before starting your application. You may want to consider when to start your Social Security benefit by carefully looking at your retirement income needs, Social Security maximization strategies, and any Social Security Tax Strategies.