Applying for Social Security Benefits
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated August 23, 2013)
For some reason whenever you deal with any government agency a huge headache isn't all that far away. Frankly this could be due to the fact that most people have a hard time dealing with the bureaucratic institutions involved. Even though applying for Social Security benefits isn't all that different, it doesn't need to be difficult. Here are a few guidelines that you can follow to make the whole process as painless as possible.
- How to apply. There are several different ways that you can go about applying for Social Security benefits. Traditionally, you could go into your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and get the paperwork from there that you need to fill out. If you have enough time, this is usually the best way to go about getting the applications, since you will have someone on hand that you can ask any questions that you may have. Another common method is applying over the phone (the number is 1-800-772-1213, or 1-800-325-0778 for TTY users). The third method that you can use to apply is online, which can be reached by typing in this URL: https://secure.ssa.gov/iCLM/rib.
- What you need. There will be a few documents that you will be required to provide copies of. These papers are things like a birth certificate, naturalization paperwork, DD-214 (if you were in the military), W-2 form, if you are self employed you will need to show your self-employment tax returns for the last year. As much as possible provide original copies of the paperwork. When applying for Disability benefits you will need some additional paperwork. You will need to file for disability benefits as soon as possible, since it usually requires a lot of time for these benefits to be processes, and approved or denied. In addition to your application, you will also need to provide any and all medical records that support your claim, treatments received, dates and times that you received those treatments, who provided those treatments, lab or other test results, contact information for all doctors, clinics, and hospitals you have visited, copies of all medications that you are taking, and a complete 15 year job history. Even with all of this information it is not a guarantee that you will receive payment; however, when you do finally receive payment it will be backdated to when you first applied.
- How long it can take. Unfortunately, when dealing with any kind of a bureaucracy you need to be aware that it can take a while to have your file approved or disapproved. It is for this reason that the SSA recommends that you apply for your benefits as early as three or four months before you can get an answer. In the case of disability benefits you should remember that you want to apply as quickly as possible, since it can take so long to get the approval.
- In the case of a denial. If you have been denied then you need to take some quick action. There are some steps already put into place with the SSA that you can use to appeal any decision that you don't like, but it never hurts to get some professional advice as well. There are attorneys who specialize in dealing with the SSA, and they can be a huge help in such situations. Keep in mind that most appeals will need to be filed within 30 to 45 days of you receiving the denial, so don't wait.