Applying for social security benefits can be an easy matter or it can become highly complicated.

What’s the First Step in Applying for Social Security Benefits?

The first step is to determine what benefit(s) you wish to apply for. There are a number of different types of benefits, including retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, as well as supplemental security income. Figuring out which of these you wish to apply for will help you determine what requirements you need to meet.

I Know Which Benefits I Want to Apply for, What Do I Do Now?

The next step is to find out what the eligibility requirements for the different benefits are. Once you know the requirements, you will know whether you are eligible to apply for social security benefits.

How Do I File a Claim for Social Security Benefits?

You can file a claim at your local social security office. You will likely have to visit the social security office at least once in order to complete your claim. You or anyone you authorize in writing (including a lawyer experienced in social security claims) can represent you in your dealings with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration says that the easiest way to file a claim is to arrange an appointment at your local office.

What Will I Need to Apply?

You will likely be asked to provide documents to support your claim. Examples of documents you will likely need include:

  • Social Security Number
  • Birth certificate
  • Most recent w-2 or self-employment tax return
  • Any military discharge papers

This list is not exhaustive and you may be required to submit other documents. Try to find out what documents you will need in advance or as early as possible.

Tips on Filing for Social Security Benefits

If you would like to receive benefits at the earliest age possible, file your claim 3 months in advance of turning the minimum age required to receive social security. This will allow time for the Social Security Administration to process your claim. Also, if you are eligible for social security, you are also eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. Again, file for Medicare three months in advance, allowing time for processing. There is no reason to delay your filing for Medicare, regardless of whether you plan on filing for social security.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

While the application process can be relatively simple, problems can arise along the way. For example, disability claims tend to become highly complicated. Also, appealing the decision of your claim can be tricky. A government lawyer experienced in social security claims can help you decide which benefits to apply for, help you apply for them, and help you appeal the decision if necessary.