3 Ways to Apply For Social Security

There are three methods you can use to apply for Social Security retirement benefits – but just in case you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, here’s how to do it:

1.) By Phone – call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between the hours of 7am and 7pm (they don’t say, but I’m assuming this is Eastern time) to set up an appointment to apply.  You can also call 1-800-325-0778 for TTY service, if you require it.

2.) In Person – just show up at your local Social Security Administration office.  You can find the closest office by clicking this link and entering your ZIP code.  From what I hear, visiting the local office can be a hit or miss experience, similar to visiting the DMV to get your driver’s license renewed.  You could get right in with little wait, but more likely you’ll spend quite a bit of time “in queue”.  Here’s a tip though: if you can work it out, I understand that the day after Thanksgiving is the best day of all to visit the local SSA office.  They’re open and operating, but nobody expects them to be.  It’s worth a try.

3.) Online – you can go to the Social Security website and there, right in the middle of the page, is a link to “Select Below to Apply For: Retirement Benefits”.  You can use this online application if you’re at least 61 years and 9 months of age, and you plan to begin your benefits within the next four months (you also live in the US or one of its commonwealths or territories).

If you’re already age 62 or better, you could begin receiving benefits as early as the month you apply.  In addition, if you’re at least 64 years, 8 months of age, your online Social Security benefit application will also include applying for Medicare.

Things you’ll need before you start the process:

  • Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;
  • Your bank or other financial institution’s Routing Transit Number and the account number, if you want the benefits electronically deposited.  You can get this information from a check or deposit slip (it’s those funky-looking numbers along the bottom edge of the check);
  • 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) 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); and
  • A copy of your Social Security Statement.  Even if the earnings on your Statement are not correct or you are not sure if they are correct, please fill out the application. The Social Security Administration will assist you in reviewing and correcting your record after they receive the application.
  • About the author

    Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

    Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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    4 Comments

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    • Hello, Howard,

      I am not certain as to an answer for you. It seems that the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) was designed to impact wages AFTER 1984, so your service may not impact your SS benefit at all, or only minimally at most (for the 1984 earnings).

      If you’re not clear about whether or not you’re getting the appropriate benefits, you should check with your local SSA office and ask them to run the calculations for you to make sure it’s right.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

    • What is the rule on SS earnings when having Military service prior to 1968? I was in 1960 to 1984. I started taking SS at age 62 and my wife is drawing off of mine. Thanks

    • Hello Harriet –

      You could be eligible to receive up to half of your current husband’s Social Security benefit at your Full Retirement Age, which would be age 66. At age 62 you would be eligible for 35% of your husband’s benefit.

      With regard to your first husband, you will not be eligible to receive benefits on his account since you are married.

      Your Spousal benefit will likely be reduced due to the Government Pension Offset, which you may already be aware of.

      Hope this helps!

      jb

    • I have recently retired from a school district. I have begun receiving my TRS standard annuity, early retirement due to disability. I am 61 years old. I have 19 credits paid into social security, prior to working for a school district. School district did not have social security. My question is: My husband is receiving social security and I have been told that I could be eligible to receive half of his pension from social security. I was married to my first husband for 10 years, and some people say that I could receive his half of social security whichever is greater. I am trying to see my options on this and prepare financially.

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