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Application & Appeal > Applying for Social Security Benefits

Applying for Social Security Benefits

There are differences in the benefits application processes, depending on whether one is seeking retirement benefits or disability benefits.  The differences are outlined below.

How Do I Apply For Retirement Benefits?
You should apply for retirement benefits three months prior to when you want your benefits to begin. Even if you have no plans to receive benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) suggests you sign-up for Medicare three months before age 65. You need the following information to apply for retirement benefits:

  • Your Social Security number;
  • Your birth certificate;
  • Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year;
  • Your military discharge papers (if you had military service);
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status, if you were not born in the United States; and
  • The name of your bank and account number for direct deposit.

Original documents or copies (certified by the issuing office) can be mailed or hand delivered to the SSA. Your documents will be returned after copies are made.

How Do I Apply For Disability Benefits?
The claim process for disability benefits is generally three to four months, but can last, depending on appeals, as much as two to three years. You need the following information to apply for disability benefits:

  • All the information listed above for retirement benefits;
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, clinics, and institutions that treated you and dates of treatment;
  • Names of all medications you are taking;
  • Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers that you have readily available; and
  • Summary of where you worked in the past 15 years and the kind of work you did.

If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits you also need the following:

  • Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord's name; and
  • Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, car registration, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Help Me Apply For Social Security?
Federal law expressly states that either attorneys or non-attorneys can represent Social Security disability applicants. In fact, you can file on your own application. However, an experienced attorney or claimants’ representative can help guide you through the complex and confusing disability claims and appeals process, and may dramatically improve your chances of obtaining a benefits award.

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