How To Apply For Social Security
You can apply for Social Security benefits through the Social Security website, ssa.gov. You’ll find separate applications for each Social Security benefit, including retirement, spouse’s, disability and Medicare.
You also can call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit a local office. Scheduling an appointment before going into the office might be worthwhile to minimize the time you spend waiting. The busiest times are typically Mondays, the morning after a federal holiday and the first week of the month, according to the Social Security Administration.
How To Receive Federal Benefits
To begin receiving your federal benefits, like Social Security or veterans benefits, you must sign up for electronic payments with direct deposit.
If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Call the Go Direct Helpline at .
If You Don’t have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Direct Express debit card – a pre-paid debit card. Get help by calling the Go Direct Helpline at .
Make Changes to an Existing Direct Deposit Account:
On Go Direct’s FAQ page, learn how to make changes to an existing direct deposit account. You also may contact the federal agency that pays your benefit for help with your enrollment.
How Much Will My Spouse Receive
If your spouse qualifies for benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
If they begin receiving benefits:
If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government employment, the amount of their Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced.
at any age
Benefits paid to your spouse will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.
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Retirement Income Benefits For Qualified Family Members
Even if your spouse has never worked outside your home or in a job covered by Social Security, he or she may be eligible for spousal benefits based on your Social Security earnings record. Other members of your family may also be eligible. Retirement benefits are generally paid to family members who relied on your income for financial support. If you’re receiving retirement benefits, the members of your family who may be eligible for family benefits include:
- Your spouse age 62 or older, if married at least one year
- Your former spouse age 62 or older, if you were married at least 10 years
- Your spouse or former spouse at any age, if caring for your child who is under age 16 or disabled
- Your children under age 18, if unmarried
- Your children under age 19, if full-time students or disabled
- Your children older than 18, if severely disabled
Your eligible family members will receive a monthly benefit that is as much as 50 percent of your benefit. However, the amount that can be paid each month to a family is limited. The total benefit that your family can receive based on your earnings record is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit amount. If the total family benefit exceeds this limit, each family member’s benefit will be reduced proportionately. Your benefit won’t be affected.
Fact #: Social Security Lifts Millions Of Older Adults Above The Poverty Line
Without Social Security benefits, about 4 in 10 adults aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal, according to official estimates based on the 2021 Current Population Survey. Social Security benefits lift more than 16 million older adults above the poverty line, these estimates show.
An important study on retirement income from the U.S. Census Bureau that matches Census estimates to administrative data suggests that the official estimates overstate older people’s reliance on Social Security. The study finds that in 2012, 3 in 10 older adults would have been poor without Social Security, and that the program lifted more than 10 million older adults above the poverty line.
No matter how it is measured, its clear that Social Security lifts millions of older adults above the poverty line and dramatically reduces their poverty rate.
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Your Options: Working Applying For Retirement Benefits Or Both
Choosing when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits is an important decision. Theres no one choice that works for everyone because your lifestyle, finances, and goals are not the same as others.
Do you want to retire early, stay on the job, or work beyond retirement age?
Should you start receiving retirement benefits now, or wait until you can receive a higher benefit amount?
These are important questions youll need to answer as you plan for your retirement. Consider the four options below to help you make the best decision.
Were There When You Get Married
Whether you are celebrating your anniversary or starting a new chapter alone or with a new spouse, a part of that new life may include a new name.
If you legally change your name due to marriage, divorce, or any other reason, let us know so you can get an updated Social Security card and so we can accurately keep track of your earnings. Theres no charge for aSocial Security card.
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Military Service Can Increase Your Social Security Benefits
You might be able to increase your Social Security Benefits if you had military service before 2001. Veterans who served between September 16, 1940, and December 31, 1956, did not automatically have Social Security taxes withheld from their military paychecks. However, the government will credit veterans with earnings of $160 for each month they served during those years.
Military service between 1957 and 2001 may also increase your Social Security Benefits. Here is how your military service impacts it:
- Military Service between 1957 and 1967, youll receive extra credits when you apply for Social Security.
- Military Service between 1968 and 2001, these credits have been added to your record.
- Military Service after 2001 does not earn extra credits.
The following article explains how your military service impacts your Social Security Benefits.
I Have Never Accessed Mysocial Security And I Do Not Have A Logingov Or Idme Credential:
Visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount to get started. You will have the option to create an account with our preferred credential partner, Login.gov. You can also access your information with an ID.me account if you have one. Keep in mind:
- You must be 18 years of age or older, have a Social Security number and a U.S. mailing address.
- You will be redirected to the partners website when you select Sign In with Login.gov or Sign in with ID.me.
- You must provide a valid email address and some additional information.
- Once you create the credential, you will return to the mySocial Security webpage for next steps.
Eligible Family Members Include:
- Ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and they have not remarried
- Children under 18, or up to 19 if still enrolled in high school
- Children of any age who were disabled before 22 — that is, not earning more than $1,260 per month in 2020, having a medical condition that results in severe functional limitations and that is expected to last 12 months or longer or result in death
Spouses and ex-spouses must be at least 62 in order to claim benefits, and spouses and children must wait for the worker to begin claiming benefits themselves before they can claim family benefits on their record.
Policy Basics: Top Ten Facts About Social Security
Social Security provides a foundation of income on which workers can build to plan for their retirement. It also provides valuable social insurance protection to workers who become disabled and to families whose breadwinner dies.
Eighty-six years after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, Social Security remains one of the nations most successful, effective, and popular programs.
We Are With Those Who Need A Helping Hand
Social Security administers the Supplemental Security Income program, which is a program that provides income support to people with disabilities and people who are age 65 or older, or blind, who have low income and resources. U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust funds, pay for SSI.
If you or someone you know may be eligible for SSI, visit to learn more and apply.
Were There To Provide Comfort During Difficult Times
The loss of a loved one can be both emotionally and financially difficult. Some widows, widowers, and children may receive survivors benefits to help them cope with the financial loss. The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the workers age when he or she dies.
Unmarried children who are under age 18 can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies.
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We Wouldnt Miss Your Retirement Party
When most people think of Social Security, they think of retirement benefits with good reason. Social Security is a lifeline for most retirees, keeping tens of millions out of poverty. Fifty-one percent of the workforce has no private pension coverage. Thirty-four percent of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.
As you get closer to retirement or starting your next chapter, it is important to check yourSocial Security Statement each year to verify the accuracy of your earnings.
Sign in or create a mySocial Security account and verify your earnings and see estimates of future throughout your career and into retirement.
Increase Social Security Retirement Benefits By Waiting To Draw Your Pay
You can also improve your monthly Social Security benefit by waiting longer to take your Social Security benefits. If you wait until you are beyond your full retirement age, you will receive an additional 8% for each year until you are 70. There is a double advantage to waiting as well since if you keep working, you can pay more into the system and increase your benefit. The higher your monthly benefit, the less you rely on your nest egg to cover your expenses.
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Fact #: Social Security Is Particularly Important For People Of Color
Social Security is a particularly important source of income for groups with low earnings and less opportunity to save and earn pensions, including Black and Latino workers and their families, who face higher poverty rates during their working lives and in old age. The poverty rate among Black and Latino older adults is roughly 2.5 times as high as for white seniors. There is a significant racial retirement wealth gap, leading older adults of color to face more retirement insecurity than their white counterparts. Black and Latino workers are less likely to be offered workplace retirement plans, and they are likelier to work in low-wage jobs with little margin for savings. Social Security helps reduce the economic disparities between older white adults and older adults of color.
Already Enrolled In Medicare
If you have Medicare, you can get information and services online. Find out how to .
If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and you want to sign up for Part B, please complete form CMS-40B, Application for Enrollment in Medicare Part B . If you are applying for Medicare Part B due to a loss of employment or group health coverage, you will also need to complete form CMS-L564, Request for Employment Information.
You can use one of the following options to submit your enrollment request under the Special Enrollment Period:
- State I want Part B coverage to begin in the remarks section of the CMS-40B form or online application.
- If possible, your employer should complete Section B.
- If your employer is unable to complete Section B, please complete that portion as best as you can on their behalf and submit one of the following forms of secondary evidence:
- Income tax form that shows health insurance premiums paid.
- W-2s reflecting pre-tax medical contributions.
- Pay stubs that reflect health insurance premium deductions.
- Health insurance cards with a policy effective date.
- Explanations of benefits paid by the GHP or LGHP.
- Statements or receipts that reflect payment of health insurance premiums.
Some people with limited resources and income may also be able to get .
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To Wait Or Not To Wait
Consider taking benefits earlier if . . .
- You are no longer working and can’t make ends meet without your benefits.
- You are in poor health and don’t expect the surviving member of the household to make it to average life expectancy.
- You are the lower-earning spouse, and your higher-earning spouse can wait to file for a higher benefit.
Consider waiting to take benefits if . . .
- You are still working and make enough to impact the taxability of your benefits.
- Either you or your spouse are in good health and expect to exceed average life expectancy.
- You are the higher-earning spouse and want to be sure your surviving spouse receives the highest possible benefit.
Documents You Need When Applying For Social Security
When its time to apply for your Social Security benefits, youll need to have the following documents in hand:
- Your Social Security card
- Your original birth certificate, or a certified copy
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status
- Military service papers, if applicable
- Your W-2 form from the last year
If you cant access any of these documents for one reason or another, dont hold off on applying. Your local Social Security office can help you obtain certified copies or equivalent information, or you can submit them later on in the process. Delaying signing up for benefits could result in you losing benefits.
Note that the SSA can accept photocopies of some of these documents, such as your W-2 and tax returns. However, youll need to submit the original of other forms, such as your birth certificate.
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When To Apply For Social Security
Timing is critical when it comes to planning your retirement income. How much you’ll receive from Social Security depends partly on when you enroll. But before we get into that, let’s talk about timing your application.
You can apply for Social Security retirement benefits up to four months before you want them to begin. This provides enough lead time for your application to be processed. However, keep in mind that Social Security payments lag by a month. That means your Social Security benefits for September arrive in October.
You’re eligible for benefits at age 62, although the Social Security Administration considers that early retirement. You’ll receive reduced benefits if you begin receiving them before the full retirement age, which is 67.
You’ll receive your full retirement benefit if you wait until the full retirement age. If you wait even longer, your retirement benefit will continue to increase until you turn 70.
Just like you should think twice about applying for Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 62, don’t assume delaying until age 70 is the right move. A financial advisor can help you determine the best time to initiate Social Security benefits based on your retirement plans.
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Full Social Security Retirement Age
|Year of Birth *|
|1960 and later||67|
If you arent disabled, you can begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62. However, you must understand that you wont qualify for full benefits. If you start taking benefits before you reach the full retirement age, you end up with reduced benefits.
Your full retirement age depends on when you were born. The Social Security Administration offers a website that can point you to your full retirement age. For people born after 1960, though, the retirement age is currently 67. You can find more information about how your benefits are reduced by consulting the benefits chart provided by the SSA.
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A You Can Continue Working And Start Receiving Your Retirement Benefits
If you start your benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.
You can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time before your full retirement age. However your benefits will be reduced if you earn more than the yearly earnings limits.
After you reach your full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months you did not receive a benefit because of your earnings. We will send you a letter that explains any increase in your benefit amount.
If you delay filing for your benefits until after full retirement age, you will be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your monthly benefit. If you also continue to work, you will be able to receive your full retirement benefits and any increase resulting from your additional earnings when we recalculate your benefits. Once you reach full retirement age, your earnings do not affect your benefit amount.
If you start receiving retirement benefits before age 65, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare when you turn 65. If you or your spouse are still working and covered under an employer-provided group health plan, talk to the personnel office before signing up for Medicare Part B. To learn more, read our Medicare publication.