Millions of retirees rely on the financial benefits of Social Security each month to make ends meet. The funds take care of many necessities that the average person needs later in life, such as groceries, housing, and health care. Because Social Security is vital to the health and well-being of life in retirement, it’s essential to understand the application process and what is required of you. Many people delay applying for Social Security because they are unsure of where to start. By fully understanding the Social Security process, you can confidently apply for its benefits when you need it most.
Step 1: Making the Decision to Apply
The first step in applying for Social Security is deciding to do so. This may seem like a simple task, but you must weigh all of your options before applying. There are a few things you should consider before making the final decision:
- Taking Social Security too early: One of the biggest mistakes people make when applying for Social Security is doing so too early. The only individuals who should consider applying before their full retirement age are those who absolutely need the money to live on or if an individual has a severe health condition that will shorten their life expectancy.
- Receiving a reduced benefit: If you take Social Security before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced. The amount you receive each month will be based on the number of months you decide to collect Social Security before your full retirement age.
- Working while receiving benefits: If you decide to start collecting Social Security before your full retirement age and continue working, your benefit will be reduced.
- Waiting until past your full retirement age to collect benefits: If you wait until after your full retirement age to start collecting Social Security, you will receive a higher benefit amount each month and maximize your benefits.
These are all critical factors that will help determine whether applying for Social Security is the right decision for you.
Step 2: Assessing Your Eligibility
The next step is to assess your eligibility. This primarily comes down to your age and workplace tenure. To be eligible for Social Security benefits, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- You are at minimum 61 years and 9 months old.
- You have stopped working and are eligible to collect retirement benefits.
- You have worked a minimum of at least 10 years where you earned Social Security credits.
If you wonder what Social Security credits are, they are simply units that measure the amount of work you have done. How these credits work depends on whether you are applying for disability benefits or retirement benefits.
As mentioned earlier, there are scenarios where it might be wise for you to begin collecting Social Security earlier or later in life. It is important to consult with a Social Security expert to figure out the best course of action for you for your unique situation.
Step 3: Gathering Required Documents
Once you have decided to apply for Social Security, the next step is gathering the required information for your application.
- The date you were born and location
- Social Security number
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful permanent residency
- Current or prior spouse information
- Employer information for the past two years
- Your bank routing number and account number
This information can be challenging to track down, so start gathering it as soon as possible. Having all your documents ready will help the application process move along faster.
Step 4: Completing the Social Security Application
The fourth step is completing the Social Security application. This is a lengthy process, and you must provide all the information requested.
If you are unsure of something or need help completing the application, reach out to the Social Security disability law firm for assistance. Our firm has experience with all types of social security issues and disability law. We can help you every step of the way and make sure your application is accurate and complete.
Step 5: Waiting for Approval and Monitoring Your Status
The final step is waiting for approval. Once your application is submitted, the Social Security Administration will review your information to make a determination. If anything is missing that is needed to help decide, they will reach out to you for more information. Depending on your case and the influx of other applications, the waiting process can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This is why it’s best not to wait until the last minute to apply for Social Security.
Once your application is approved, you will begin receiving Social Security payments. It’s essential to monitor your status and make sure any changes, such as a job change or address change, are reported to Social Security. This will help ensure your payments are processed correctly, you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, and no violations are taking place on either party’s part.
Should I Consult a Social Security Lawyer?
The social security process can be complex, and many people are rejected without even understanding why. If you have any questions or concerns about the Social Security application process, it is best to consult a lawyer. They can help answer any questions you may have and guide you through the process. A Social Security lawyer will also be able to help if there are any issues with your application or payments. Having an advocate on your side can make the process much easier and less stressful.
Taking the plunge and applying for Social Security can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with the right information and support. Start gathering your documents and completing the application today to get started on the road to receiving your benefits. Contact Gade & Parekh for more information on Social Security law and how we can help you through the application process to begin your journey to earning benefits that will help you in your retirement years.