How to Apply for Benefits

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

You apply for benefits by filing a claim either in person, by mail, or by telephone at any Social Security office. You can get the address of your nearest office either from the post office, from the phone book under the listing, United States Government—Social Security Administration, or by calling Social Security's toll-free number 1-800-772-1213. You will need certain kinds of proof, depending upon the type of benefit you are claiming. If it is a retirement benefit, you should provide your social security number and a birth certificate or religious record (preferably recorded before age 5). If you are unable to get these documents, other old documents showing your age or date of birth—such as census records, school records, early naturalization certificate, etc.—may be acceptable. A widow, or widower, 60 or older, who is claiming widow's benefits based on his/her spouse's earnings should have his/her own social security number, his/her spouse's social security number, proof of age and a copy of the marriage certificate. A child claiming child's benefits should provide a birth certificate, his/her own social security number, and the social security number of the parent on whose record benefits are being claimed. If formal proof is not available, the Social Security office will tell you what kinds of information will be acceptable. Do not delay applying even if you do not have the necessary information or proofs.

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