Navigating Social Security Benefits

Senior Citizens Social Security BenefitsQuestion: How does my Mom apply for Social Security benefits?

Answer: The traditional way is to make a visit to your local Social Security Office, but the process is much easier online. There re 1,300 offices nationwide and you can call 1-800-772-1213 to find the office nearest you. If you go to the local office to apply for the benefits, you and your Mom should bring her:

  • Social Security Card
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number (if shes’s applying for benefits based on her husband’s record)
  • Marriage certificate
  • Military discharge papers if she served in the military
  • W-3 form from last year or her latest tax return

The time to apply for benefits is four months before the date she qualifies. Presently, early retirement can begin at age 62. If your Mom was born before 1938, her full retirement age will remain at age 65; however, the full retirement age is moving up for those born after 1938. Be sure to check with the Social Security Administration as to your full retirement age based upon your birth date. (For example, Baby Boomers born between 1943-1954 will not reach full retirement age until they are 66 years old.) If you have access to the internet, you can go to Social Security’s excellent website at

The SSA has been in the forefront of offering a range of service in the internet. If you lose your Social Security card or Medicare card, you can apply for new cards online. You can email questions and add your name to a list to be updated on the latest new rules given  topic of your choosing. You can even submit a request to receive a Social Security statement identifying all of your contributions throughout your working life and what you can expect to receive upon retirement at different ages. You can also search for your full retirement age based upon your birth date. Here are a few guidelines for submitting your Mom’s Social Security retirement application online:

  • You’ll need a printer because, once you’ve entered the information and sent it to SSA, you’ll also need to print the application, sign it and mail it to the address provided.
  • The internet service isn’t available 24/7, but close to it, so be sure to check the hours listed on the benefit application page before you start.
  • You must agree to direct deposit to make an online application, so have your Mom’s bank routing number on hand (and direct deposit is a good idea for security purposes anyway).
  • You’ll need to know her earnings for t he past and current year.
  • You’ll also need to enter other basics such as her married name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
  • SSA lists what you’ll need to know before you start the online application. As with all applications, you will need to mail in some original documents what SSA will mail back to you.

The website can answer just about every question on Social Security and benefits. You” fin a Woman’s Page filled with financial tips and benefits advice for women of all ages. (If you’re a teacher, note that there’s also a terrific Kid’s Page.)

Information provided by Dr. Linda Rhodes, Finding Your Way, 250 Real Life Questions and Commonsense Answers