How To Apply For Retirement Benefits

Small golden key on top of social security cards.

This page explains the process on how to apply for your retirement benefits. If you have questions or issues on applying for these benefits, then you would need to contact your local office. To find a location near you, please use our Social Security office locator. Social Security recommends you apply online, however if you prefer to apply in-person you should call your local office and setup an appointment. This is not required, but an appointment may speed up the application process. When making your appointment, you can ask the person to verify what documents you need to bring to complete your retirement benefits application.

Social Security does highly recommend you apply using their online system. You can easily complete the application process in as little as 15 minutes at your house using your internet connection. Usually once your application has been submitted, you are done. There are no forms to sign and in most cases, no documentation is required. Social Security will process your online application and contact you if any additional information is needed.

If you prefer to complete your application in a language other than English, the online application will give you the option to schedule an appointment to apply for benefits in your preferred language. The online application is currently only available in English.


Who is able to apply online for retirement benefits?

You can apply online for retirement benefits or benefits as a spouse if you:


Can I apply for the Medicare program?

If you already have Medicare, you can still use this application to apply for retirement benefits. After receiving retirement benefits after two years, you may automatically be entitled to Medicare. SSI and SSDI vary, and your retirement benefits may change depending on which you’re entitled to. If you don’t have Medicare but are within 3 months of age 65, you can use this application to apply for both retirement and Medicare or just apply for Medicare itself if you are not ready to receive retirement benefits yet.


Before you apply for your retirement benefits

Before you apply for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security basics you need to know about:

Your full retirement ageDepending on your birthdate, that may be between age 66 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want your benefits to start.

When you can start benefitsYou may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

Spousal income and SSNBefore applying for social security benefits, it’s important to understand how marriage affects your retirement payments.

Benefits are reduced for ageYour monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before full retirement age.

Working while you receive benefitsIf you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.

Delayed retirement creditsDelayed retirement credits may be added to your benefits if they start after your full retirement age.

Life expectancyIf you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between. However, a lot of us will live much longer than the “average” retiree, and most women live longer than men. More than one in three 65 year olds today will live to age 90, and more than one in seven will live to age 95.

Social Security benefits, which last as long as you live, provide valuable protection against out living savings and other sources of retirement income. Again, you will want to choose a retirement age based on your circumstances so you will have enough income when you need it.


How to use the online retirement benefits application

Below are the steps on how to use their online system to fill out and submit your application for retirement benefits:



After you completely fill out the application, they will ask you 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.



Why apply for benefits using the online system

Using the Social Security online application has a number of benefits:



However, if you choose to apply for benefits more than two months in the future, you will not be able to check the status of your application until one month before you start receiving benefits.


How long are you allowed to stay on each page?

For security reasons, there are time limits for viewing each page. You will receive a warning after 25 minutes without doing anything, and you will be able to extend your time on the page. After the third warning, you must move to another page or your time will run out and your work on that page will be lost.


After you apply

Once they have received your application, they will then review it. After the review, they will contact you if any additional information is needed or if they need to see your documents. They can also contact you to let you know:



When they have all of the necessary information and documents, they will process your application and send you a letter about their decision in the mail. If you prefer not to apply online then you can apply for retirement benefits:


Elliot Marks

Elliot Marks

Elliot has spent years providing clear and concise information to help navigate the complex nuances of social security and many other government services in the United States. Elliot has a passion for helping those in need of these services to be able to find timely access to news and information that is relevant and helpful to their daily lives.