This is an archival or historical document. It may not reflect current policies or procedures.

Preparing To Apply For Benefits

If you have never read any information about Social Security or talked to one of our representatives, you may need some background information about the benefits themselves before going ahead with the application. We want to be sure you are able to answer all of the questions.

Who Can Use This Application

You can use this application to help someone apply for

  • Social Security retirement or spouses benefits. The person you are helping must:
    • be at least 61 years and 9 months old and
    • want to start their benefits in the next four months.

    Note: If they are:

    • Already age 62, their benefits could start as early as this month.
    • Almost 65, their application for benefits will include Medicare.
  • Medicare. To apply for Medicare only, the person you are helping:
    • must be at least 64 years and 9 months old,
    • must want to sign up for Medicare but not currently have any Medicare coverage, and
    • should not want to start receiving Social Security benefits at this time. (If they aren't sure, you can help them apply for Medicare now and apply online for benefits later.)

    Note: If the person you are helping has a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or health insurance based on current employment, they may want to ask their personnel office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect them.

Applying For Retirement Benefits

If the person is filing for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security "basics" he or she should know. The most important one is knowing the person's "full retirement age." Depending on his or her date of birth, it may be between age 65 and 67. This could affect the amount of the benefits and when the person wants the benefits to start.

People may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, their monthly benefits will be reduced if they start any time before "full retirement age."

If people elect to receive benefits before they reach full retirement age, they should understand how continuing to work can affect their benefits.

The person should also be aware that credits may be added to the benefits if he or she takes them after full retirement age.

If the person you are helping lives to the average life expectancy for someone their age, they will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether they choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between.

The person should also be aware that there are other things to consider when people decide when to begin benefits. Some of the things they should think about before they decide include how long the benefits may need to last, their health and whether anyone else in the family can get benefits on the same record.

Applying For Medicare Benefits

This application can be used to apply for Medicare if a person is at least 64 and 9 months old. However, they do not need to apply for monthly retirement or spouses benefits to sign up for Medicare.

If the person you are helping is not ready to start monthly cash benefits in the next four months, they can sign up just for Medicare at this time and apply for retirement or spouses benefits later.

If the person you are helping decides to apply only for Medicare, be sure they understand how waiting until later to receive cash benefits will affect their overall retirement financial situation.


If the person you are helping already has Medicare Part A and wishes to sign up for Medicare Part B, you cannot use this Internet application. Please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact their local Social Security office.

Steps In The Process

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Fill out the online application.
    After you fill out the application, you will be asked to confirm the truthfulness of the answers to the best of your knowledge under penalty of perjury, and your response will be recorded. You can be held liable for intentionally providing false or misleading information.

  2. Click on the "Submit Now" button to complete the application and send it electronically to Social Security. We will mail a paper copy of a summary of the application to the applicant for verification and signature. If the applicant finds something that is incorrect, he or she should mark the corrections before sending us the signed application.

  3. Submit any documents we may need to a Social Security office.

If you can't complete the applicant's online application for any reason, you will be able to continue the application later without losing the information you entered.

What Happens After The Application Is Completed?

Once we receive the application, we'll review it. After the review, we will contact the applicant if we need more information or if we need to see their documents.

We'll also let them know if

When we have all of the necessary information and documents, we'll process the application and send the applicant a letter about our decision in the mail.

Information Needed To Apply For Benefits

We suggest that you have the following information about the applicant at hand. It will make completing the application much easier.

Information about the applicant:

  • Date and place of birth and Social Security number;
  • The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service the applicant had before 1968;
  • The name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of the applicant's current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of all the applicant's marriages, divorces and, if appropriate, spouses' dates of death; and
  • Bank or other financial institution's Routing Transit Number and the account number [more info], if the applicant wants the benefits electronically deposited.

Information about their work:

  • The name and address of the applicant's employer(s) for this year and last year;
  • The amount of money earned last year and this year. If filing in the months of September through December, we will also need an estimate of next year's earnings; and
  • A copy of the applicant's Social Security Statement or a record of his or her earnings.

    Even if you do not have a record of the applicant's earnings or you are not sure if they are correct, please fill out the application. We will help the applicant review and correct the earnings history when we receive the application.

Note: If they are outside the U.S., we may need to know if they worked or will be working over 45 hours a month outside the United States.

Documents You May Need to Provide

We may need to see certain documents in order to pay benefits. A list of these documents will appear at the end of the application, along with instructions on where to submit them. The types of documents we may ask for are:

  • the applicant's original birth certificate or other proof of birth [more info] (You may also submit a copy certified by the issuing agency).;
  • proof of the applicant's U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if they were not born in the United States [more info];
  • a copy of the applicant's U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if they had military service before 1968 [more info]; and
  • a copy of the applicant's W-2 form(s) [more info] and/or self-employment tax return [more info] for last year.

Note: If our records show that documents proving age or citizenship/lawful alien status have already been submitted for an earlier Medicare or Social Security claim (such as Disability, Supplemental Security Income, etc.), the documents do not need to be submitted again.

We will return all documents and photocopies unless specifically told otherwise.

How To Contact Us

If you cannot use this application or you decide not to complete an application over the Internet, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or visit a Social Security Office to make an appointment.

If the person you are helping lives outside the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.