Understanding Social Security Claims

Regardless of whether you are at retirement age and wish to collect your Social Security benefits, are disabled and wish to collect disability benefits, or want to collect benefits due you as the spouse of a deceased person, you must apply for benefits to receive them.

Applying For Social Security Benefits

To apply for benefits, you must file a claim for benefits. You can file a claim at a Social Security office or online.

Applying For Benefits Online

If you have access to a computer and a secure Internet connection, you can apply for benefits online at the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov. Click on "Apply for retirement benefits" or "Apply for disability benefits."

To be eligible to apply online, you must:

Be 61 years and 9 months of age or older, plan to begin receiving benefits within four months, have a disability or illness that will prevent you from working for 12 or more months or have a disability or illness that will result in death. You must reside in the United States or a territory or commonwealth of the United States.

What To Expect When Applying Online

Before you begin the online application process, you should have the following information available:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your date of birth

  • Your bank account routing number and deposit account number

  • Your total earnings last year

  • Your expected total earnings this year

  • The names and addresses of each of your employers for the past two years

  • Dates of military service if you were in the U.S. military between 1939 and 1968
  • For disability claims, information about your illness, injuries and conditions and the names and addresses of your medical care providers

After you start the process, if you need to end your session and return to complete it at a later time, you can save the data that you entered.

When you have completed the application, sign it by clicking on the "sign now" button. Your application will be immediately sent to the Social Security Administration. You will not be able to change information that you entered in your online application once it has been sent.

After you submit your application, you will need to send documentation to the Social Security Administration. The documents you need to send will be listed at the end of your application process. You will likely need to send the following documents, but you may also need to send other documents depending on your situation:

  • Your birth certificate or other proof of birth (SS will return it to you)
  • Naturalization papers, if applicable

  • U.S. military discharge papers (DD-214)

  • W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for last year (copies are OK)

  • For disability benefits, two signed disclosure statements completed online

If you change your mind after you have begun the online application for Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration wants you to call 800-772-1213 to avoid any loss of benefits.

There are several benefits to applying online. You may do so from the privacy of your home or another convenient location, while not needing to make numerous trips to the SS office. You can start, stop, continue and save your information online, so nothing is lost if you need to return days later to complete the application. It also saves taxpayer dollars as online applications cost less to process.

Note that these instructions were complete at the time that they were posted, but the Social Security Administration may change its processes and words on its website without notice, so you should read the instructions on the screen very carefully. Note, too, that your application is not completed until you submit it, and it is not submitted until you click on the submission button (sign now).

If you need help completing the online application, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213.

If you are denied benefits, please contact attorney Peter Waltz for information on how you can appeal the Social Security Administration's denial. Remember, you have a right to question the decision.