Social Security Retirement Application

The online form in 2020

First monthly Social Security check recipient Ida May Fuller, January 31, 1940

You can apply online for Retirement and Spouse benefits, but spouses who have already applied or are currently receiving benefits on their own earnings cannot apply online. You should already have a my Social Security account.

Social Security recommends the online application, but you can also apply by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or in person at your local Social Security office, though they recommend scheduling an appointment. If you live outside the U.S. you can contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.

Online Application Details

These are the online questions for the Social Security Retirement application, last retrieved on 1/14/20. The entries are either free text or drop-down menu selections (e.g., Yes/No). The application program is contextual, and depends on your profile and history. Questions may vary, depending on your earlier answers. Comments or editing added for the Wiki are shown in italics.

One of the unexpected details of both Medicare and Social Security is the individual nature of the insurance. For those with decades of family employer insurance, there is no family or joint coverage. There are, however, Spouse and Survivor benefits that can apply to non-working dependents.

Applicant Identification
Social Security Number:
Date of Birth:
Blind or low vision: Y/N
Disabled: Y/N 

Applicant’s Contact Information
Contact Information
Mailing Address:
Reside at this address: Y/N
Best time to call:
Email Address:
Confirm Email Address:
Language Preferences
Preferred language for speaking:
Preferred language for reading: 

Birth and Citizenship Information
Place of Birth:
U.S. Citizen: Y/N
Type of Citizenship:
Re-entry Number
The Re-entry Number is:
(The Re-entry Number cannot be edited.) 

Other Social Security Numbers and Names
Other Social Security Numbers
Any other Social Security Numbers used: Y/N
Other Names
Any other names used: Y/N 


Marriage Information
Currently married: Y/N
Spouse’s Name:
Spouse’s Social Security Number:
Know Spouse’s date of birth: Y/N
Spouse’s date of birth:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:
Marriage Type: 

Prior Marriages
Any prior marriages: Y/N 

Do you have any children: Y/N
Any children who became disabled prior to age 22: Y/N
Any unmarried children under age 18: Y/N
Any unmarried children aged 18 to 19 still attending elementary or secondary school (below college level) full time: Y/N 

Employer Details
Worked or will work for an employer in [current year]: Y/N 

Self-Employment Details
Self-employed in [current year]: Y/N 

Supplemental Information
Worked outside the US: Y/N
Spouse worked outside the US: Y/N
Agree with earnings history as shown on Social Security statement: Y/N 

Review your earnings history at your account. Check your annual Social Security income against your tax returns or W-2’s.

Total Earnings
Neither working for an employer nor self-employed in [current year] or later, last year worked: 

Other Pensions/Annuities
Ever work in a job where U.S. Social Security taxes were not deducted or withheld: Y/N
Receiving pension or annuity based on this non-covered work: Y/N
Expecting to receive pension or annuity based on non-covered work: Y/N
Received a lump sum payment instead of a pension or annuity based on this non-covered work: Y/N
Spouse worked for the Railroad 5 years or more: Y/N 

When to Start Retirement Benefits
Benefits to start in [month/year of application submittal]: Y/N
Benefits should start in: [your desired month/year, from up to 6 months before application submittal to 4 months after. This is the start of eligibility; the first payment is the following month.]

Depending on your age, there are menus and information pop-ups on permanent reductions of the monthly benefit before Full Retirement Age, increases in monthly benefit for delaying, and whether you have applied for, or are currently receiving, Supplemental Security Income (SSI). An SSI recipient is required to pursue all other benefits when first eligible.

You should include a statement in the Remarks section below describing your intended start date to avoid problems from errors in the application.

The specific reason this start date was selected: [Currently working and plan to retire on this date/No longer working/Other Reason]
Description of other reason: [free text, e.g., “Maximum benefit at 70”]
If eligible for both retirement and spouse’s benefits, delay receipt of retirement benefit: Y/N 

Direct Deposit Details
Own or co-own a bank account to use for Direct Deposit:
Account Type:
Routing Number:
Account Number: 

Other Benefits

Benefit Information
Intend to apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits:
Any previous application(s) for Medicare, Social Security, or Supplemental Security Income benefits:
Types of benefits for which application submitted:
Application for benefits submitted on own Social Security Number: 

Health Insurance
Already enrolled in Medicare Part B:
Enrolled on own Social Security Number:
Receiving Medicaid (state health insurance): 

Group Health Plan Information
Covered under a Group Health Plan: 

Social Security defines a “Group Health Plan (GHP)” as health insurance based on the current employment of the beneficiary or the beneficiary’s spouse.

The following are your remarks: 

This is a place to provide any additional information to clarify earlier entries. You should include a statement describing your intended start date to avoid problems from errors in the application, such as “I am filing for retirement benefits to begin at age XX.”

After completing the form, you have the option of submitting it, or saving it and returning later with your Re-entry Number.

Electronic Signature Agreement
Congratulations, you’re just about ready to complete your application for retirement benefits.
Please read and accept the following statement to finish the application. If you are helping someone apply, then the person filing for benefits must read and accept this agreement by checking the box themselves.
I agree to notify the Social Security Administration promptly if I (or any person for whom I receive benefits) become employed or self-employed while outside the United States, change citizenship, or go (for 30 days or more) to any country other than the residence address I have entered in this application. 

I agree to return any payments which are not due. 

I understand and agree that my application will be signed electronically when I select the check box below. I also understand that my electronic signature means that I intend to apply for benefits and have provided the Social Security Administration with accurate information. 

I declare under penalty of perjury that I have examined all the information on this application and it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I understand that anyone who knowingly gives a false or misleading statement about a material fact in this electronic application, or causes someone else to do so, commits a crime and may be sent to prison or may face other penalties, or both. 

I agree with the Electronic Signature Agreement above. 

You will no longer be able to change this information once you continue.

When you select “Submit Now” below, you will be sending this completed information electronically to the Social Security Administration. Please make sure that everything is correct.

Are you sure you want to save and exit?
Completing this application at a later date may affect the month your benefits will start as well as other information on the application. 

Before you save and exit, print this page or write down the re-entry number. You will need this number to return to your saved application later. 

Re-entry Number: 

If you lose or forget this number, you can recover it by logging in or registering for a my Social Security account. Social Security employees will never ask for your re-entry number and they do not have access to it. This is to protect your privacy. 

Things you should know about your application
We may use [today’s date] as the official date of your application for Social Security benefits. In order to use [today’s date], we must receive the signed application by [1 month after today’s date] or you may lose Social Security benefits. If you intend to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments, we may use [today’s date] as the official date of your SSI application. In order to use [today’s date], we must receive the signed application by [2 months after today’s date] or you may lose SSI benefit payments. 

If any of these dates fall on a weekend or federal holiday, we must receive the signed application by the following business day. 

If, for some reason, you are unable to come back to this application later, you can contact us to know more about other ways of completing the application. 

You’re almost done…
You have successfully saved your online application for benefits. There is one more step in the process that, although not required, is highly recommended. 

If you do not already have one, we urge you to take a few minutes right now to open a free mySocial Security account. This secure account allows you to have convenient online access to information on your record and manage your benefits once you start receiving them. You do not have to wait until you receive benefits to sign up! 

Application Approval

6 weeks is a common answer on the web for Retirement application approval. Your my Social Security account will tell you when you’re approved. Here’s the timeline for ours:

Social Security Retirement Application Timeline

Calendar Days/WeeksEvent
Retirement Application submitted online by my wife, 16 weeks before the requested filing month.
ImmediateAutomated email confirmation of the application.
2 daysOnline my Social Security account shows application submittal with status “Pending”.
2 weeksEmail from a Social Security employee requesting a return call.
2 weeks 3 daysAfter some phone tag, SS employee reviews wife’s application, then offers and takes a phone application for my spouse benefit.
2 weeks 6 daysFollow-up call from the SS employee with questions on wife’s work history, and reconfirming the requested filing month.
4 weeks 2 days2nd follow-up call from the SS employee with the same questions.
4 weeks 5 daysSocial Security “Spouse Application Summary” letter received for review.
8 weeks 4 daysmy Social Security removes wife’s benefit estimates and link to Retirement Calculator.
16 weeks 3 daysmy Social Security accounts show benefits approved in the first week of the filing month.
17 weeksRetirement “Notice of Award” letter received.

Since we last heard from Social Security about 5 weeks after the application, I think submitting 6 weeks before the filing month is reasonable. Social Security is now warning on their Retirement site that

“if you choose to apply for benefits more than two months in the future, you will not be able to check the status of your application until one month before you start receiving benefits.” 

Start of Payments

This is a good point to explain that Social Security starts payments the month after the “start” month:

When and how we pay your benefits We pay Social Security benefits monthly. The benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due. For example, you would receive your July benefit in August. Generally, the day of the month you receive your benefit payment depends on the birth date of the person for whose earnings record you receive benefits. For example, if you get benefits as a retired worker, we base your benefit payment date on your birth date. If you receive benefits based on your spouse’s work, we base your benefit payment date on your spouse’s birth date.

Date of birthBenefits paid each month on
1st – 10thSecond Wednesday
11th – 20thThird Wednesday
21st – 31stFourth Wednesday”
Benefit Verification Letter

You have to follow the my Social Security link to a Benefit Verification Letter to see your benefit details:

Beginning May 2020, the full monthly Social Security benefit before any deductions is $XXXX.
We deduct $XXXX for medical insurance premiums each month.
The regular monthly Social Security payment is $XXXX.
(We must round down to the whole dollar.)
Social Security benefits for a given month are paid the following month. (For example, Social Security benefits for March are paid in April.)
Your Social Security benefits are paid on or about the third Wednesday of each month.

The “medical insurance premium” is for Medicare Part B. Deducting it from your Social Security benefit actually protects you from a Medicare premium increase if your Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) is not large enough to cover the full premium increase.

Social Security Administration Email

Social Security sends an email when they start to review your online application:

From: ^SSA CH Do Not Reply
Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2020 10:07 AM
Subject: Social Security Internet Application

We received your application for SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT BENEFITS.
Before we can make a decision for your Social Security Benefits, we must speak with you
Please call AS SOON AS YOU CAN – Mrs. XXXX at 1 800-XXX-XXXX ext. XXXXX
  Mon-Friday 7:00am – 4:00pm
  Sat. 7:00am – 12:00pm 

(If you doubt the authenticity of this email, please call Social Security Nationwide number: 1 (800) 772–1213 for verification)