Learn about the Social Security Retirement Benefits Application
Social Security offers an online retirement application that you can complete in as little as 15 minutes. It's so easy. Better yet, you can apply from the comfort of your home or office at a time most convenient for you. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.
In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.
Not ready to retire yet?
It's never too early to start planning. Use the Retirement Estimator to obtain immediate and personalized estimates of your future retirement benefit.
Questions about our Social Security Retirement Benefits application...
You can apply online for retirement benefits or benefits as a spouse if you:
- are at least 61 years and 9 months old;
- are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record;
- have not already applied for retirement benefits; and
- want your benefits to start no more than 4 months in the future.
Note: We cannot process your application if you apply for benefits more than four months in advance.
If you are within 3 months of age 65, your retirement application will include Medicare benefits. If you do not want to start receiving retirement benefits yet, you can use this application just to sign up for Medicare.
However, if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or health insurance based on current employment, you may want to ask your personnel office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect you.
If you are applying for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security "basics" you should know. The most important one is knowing your "full retirement age." Depending on your date of birth, it may be between age 65 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want the benefits to start.
You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, your monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before "full retirement age."
If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.
You should also be aware that credits may be added to your benefits if they start after your full retirement age.
If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between.
Please read Other Things to Consider for information about other things you should think about when you make your decision about when to begin your benefits. Some of the things you should think about before you decide include:
- how long you think you will receive benefits,
- your health and
- whether anyone else in your family can get benefits on your record.
We welcome those who wish to help another person apply an application for retirement, spouse's or Medicare benefits. You may be a friend, relative, attorney, paralegal, employer, or member of an advocacy group or organization.
We may ask for information about you (the form completer), your relationship to the person you are applying for and, if applicable, the organization you work for.
If the person you are helping is, or will be immediately available to sign the completed application on his or her own behalf, please answer the questions as that person would answer them.
Whenever we say "you" or "your," we are referring to the person you are helping to apply.
You do not need to be appointed as the representative of the person you are helping in order to help him or her apply for benefits. But if the person you are helping wants to officially appoint you as the authorized representative to do business with Social Security, you must submit form SSA-1696-U4 (Appointment of Representative).
Visit our Representing Social Security Claimants website to get a copy of the form and an explanation of the representative process.
Who Can "Sign" the Application
If the person you are helping is, or will be with you and able to sign the completed application, he or she must be the one to sign it (i.e., electronically apply). The application will then be automatically forwarded to us and we will begin processing.
However, if the person is not with you or not able to sign the application, we will mail it to him or her for verification and signature.
Select the "Apply for Retirement" button above.
You'll go through a series of screens that will ask you questions about yourself, your family and your work.
Fill out the online application.
You can complete your application in a single session or start the application now and finish it sometime later. If you:
get stuck on a question, you can skip it and go back later. When you get to the end of the application, we'll let you know if there are any questions you still need to answer.
- can't complete your online application because you need to look something up, or for any other reason, you can "Return to a Saved Application" later without losing the information you entered.
After you completely fill out the application, we 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.
"Sign" the application electronically by clicking on the "Submit Now" button. It will appear on the screen after you have finished filling out the application.
Reminder: The only person who can "sign" the application is the person who is applying for benefits. A legal representative or person helping cannot sign the application.
If you are helping someone who is not with you or not able to sign the application, we will mail it to him or her for verification and signature.
Submit any documents we may need to a Social Security office.
To find out what documents and information you need to apply, go to "Information You Need To Apply For Retirement Benefits Or Medicare."
Our online application has number of features:
- A Retirement Estimator - gives you a personal estimate of how much your benefits will be at different ages and "stop work" dates.
- Avoid trips to your Social Security office. That saves you time and money.
- Answer questions on your schedule - you can start and stop the application without fear of losing any of the information you entered.
- Chance to correct mistakes - before you finish the application you'll be given a chance to go back and make corrections.
- [More Info] links - when you have trouble answering a question help is just a click away...
- No need to mail in your application - when you're finished, just click "Submit Now" to send your application to Social Security.
You'll get a receipt for your online application that you can print and keep for your records. We'll also give you a confirmation number. Use that number to check the status of your application after you've applied.
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.
Once we receive your application, we'll review it. After the review, we will contact you if we need more information or if we need to see your documents. We'll also let you know if...
- you may be able to receive benefits on another person's record, such as your spouse.
- other family members may be able to receive benefits on your work record.
When we have all of the necessary information and documents, we'll process your application and send you a letter about our decision in the mail.
If you applied online for just Medicare, you can still apply online for retirement benefits later on.
You can also apply:
By phone - Call us at
1-800-772-1213.If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
In person - Visit your local Social Security office. (Call first to make an appointment.)
If you do not live in the U.S. or one of its territories you can also - Contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.