Applying for Social Security benefits upon retirement can seem like a complicated process, but qualified applicants can usually submit an application according to government guidelines without too much difficulty.

While there are multiple groups of American citizens that can be eligible for Social Security benefits, the largest benefactors by far pensioners. Knowing when to apply for retirement benefits it an important part of meeting Social Security age guidelines for retirees. The Social Security system and the management of benefits are overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Retirees who meet necessary work history and age requirements can apply for Social Security benefits in a few different ways depending on the type of application being submitted. Depending on the grounds of which an applicant is submitting his or her application, applicants may be able to submit their application online, by phone or in person. To prepare for the Social Security benefits application process, potential benefits recipients can familiarize themselves with the benefits application process and the information and documentation that they will be asked to provide. Keep reading to discover how easy it can be to apply for social security benefits today.

Age Requirements For Retirement Social Security Benefits

For the majority of Americans, Social Security benefits can only be accessed once they have met the national retirement age. The minimum age a worker must have to receive benefits depends on when the applicant was born. Workers can opt for early retirement starting from 62 years of age, but full retirement cannot start until the applicant is 65 to 67 years of age in most cases. Future retirees can submit their application for retirement up to three months before they become eligible to begin receiving benefits immediately. Because it can take months or even years to completely process Social Security benefits, retirees are encouraged to submit their benefits application as soon as possible upon becoming eligible. Benefits can be applied for eligible surviving family members of any age and should be requested immediately upon becoming eligible.

Information Required to Complete an Application for Social Security Benefits

Much of the specific information required on a Social Security benefits application depends on the reason the applicant is requesting assistance. Some application questions must be completed by all applicants. Workers who are entering retirement will be asked about their work and earning history throughout their life time. Most applications for Social Security benefits for retirement, disability and other reasons must include the following documentation:

  • Certified U.S.-issued birth certificate
  • Valid Social Security Card
  • Valid proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful resident status
  • U.S. military enrollment or discharge papers
  • W-2 forms or proof of self-employment from tax returns over the past previous year

The other information and documentation that Social Security applicants must provide is directly connected to their reason for applying for assistance. Additional requirements for Social Security benefits can be separated into the following applicant categories:

Benefits for Retirement

Meeting the qualifications to retire with Social Security benefits requires applicants to share several important details about their work history and current financial assets. Applicants for retirement benefits can expect to be asked to provide proof of:

  • Their income over the last two years
  • Names and addresses of any employers over the last two years
  • The month when the applicant hopes to start receiving benefits
  • Bank account information

Benefits for Persons with a Disability

Persons with one or more qualifying disability can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits at a much younger age than those who are entering retirement. To receive disability Social Security benefits for a disability, the applicant must be able to provide valid medical proof of the condition and its effects on his or her daily life. Applicants for Social Security disability benefits must include the following additional application material:

  • Valid medical adult disability report or other medical evidence of the disability
  • Proof of any workers’ compensation the applicant has received
  • Details about the applicant’s disability, including when it first appeared, etc.
  • The names and information about any minor children living in the applicant’s household
  • Marriage status and information on the applicant’s spouse, if applicable

Benefits for Spouses and Ex-Spouses

Eligible spouses or ex-spouses of individuals who receive Social Security benefits may be eligible for Social Security assistance as well. This group of applicants will be asked to provide additional information and documentation such as:

  • A valid marriage certificate or divorce decree, as applicable
  • The Social Security numbers of any other spouses or minor children involved
  • Information about the spouse’s employer and work history

Benefits for Surviving Family Members and Children

Surviving family members of a person who was awaiting Social Security benefits but is now deceased can also receive assistance. To access benefits in this situation, applicants must provide the following additional information:

  • Employment history for any adults contributing to the household
  • Disability history of any adults or minors living in the household
  • Names and information about any minors living in the household
  • Information about any children’s other legal guardians or parents

How to Apply For Social Security Benefits

Applicants for Social Security benefits living anywhere in the world can take advantage of several methods to submit their request for assistance. Some types of applications or categories of applicants have more limited options for applying for benefits, however. You can learn more about which options are available for your situation by doing some quick research on application methods for your eligibility group. Many people choose to apply for their federal benefits through a state assistance program. Most applicants have the choice of submitting their Social Security benefits application in any of the following ways:

Submitting an Application Online

For many applicants, submitting a Social Security benefits request online is the most convenient option. This method is usually available to applicants whose eligibility is based on meeting federal retirement, disability or spousal benefits criteria. Surviving family members and children are not generally eligible for application submission online.

Applying over the Phone

Many applicants for Social Security benefits choose to apply over the phone. This is a great choice for first-time applicants who are unsure of how to correctly complete some aspects of the application or complete other steps in the application process. Applicants for benefits can call 1 800 772 1213 or 1 800 325 0778 for the hearing impaired to speak with a Social Security representative and to submit their benefits request. This is one of the two ways applicants for survivor’s or children’s benefits can receive aid.

Submitting a Benefits Request In-Person

The SSA also accepts Social Security benefits applications submitted in person at your local SSA office or affiliate. Applicants who would like to go through the application or learn more about the application process can benefit from having the focused attention of an experienced professional guide them in person. Applicants should try to prepare their application as much as possible before heading into the SSA by bringing all of the documentation they will need for successful submission along with them to their visit. Most SSA offices welcome applicants to make an appointment for benefits request submissions. This is one of the two ways applicants survivor and child applicants can access benefits.

Submitting a Benefits Request from Abroad

Even Americans living abroad have the right to Social Security assistance if eligible. To apply from outside the country, applicants from abroad should contact their closest U.S. embassy to find out how they process Social Security benefits applications. Applicants will most likely need to make an appointment to speak with an embassy representative before they will be able to submit their full benefits application.