You should apply not more than 3 months before you want benefits to begin. There are a number of options for applying for Social Security benefits. If you want to schedule an appointment to apply in person at a local office or to apply over the telephone, you can call your local office or the Social Security Administration's toll-free telephone number, which is 1-800-777-1213. You can also apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov. Click on Retirement and follow the instructions for completing your application.
The Social Security Administration may ask for the following documentation:
- Your Social Security card (or a record of your number);
- Your original birth certificate or other proof of birth, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.;
- A copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; and
- A copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.