You can apply for benefits by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by visiting your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.

You can help by being ready to:

  • Provide any needed documents; and
  • Answer the questions listed below.

Documents you may need to provide

We may ask you to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:

  • A birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [More Info];
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968;
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s);
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year; and
  • A death certificate for the deceased worker.

Important

We accept photocopies of W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns, but we must see the original of most other documents, such as your birth certificate. We will return the documents to you.

Do not delay applying for benefits because you do not have all the documents. We will help you get them.

What we will ask you

  • Your name and Social Security number;
  • The deceased worker's name, gender, date of birth and Social Security number;
  • The deceased worker's date and place of death;
  • Whether the deceased worker ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (if so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record he or she applied);
  • Whether the deceased worker was unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time during the 14 months before his or her death (if "Yes," we will also ask when he or she became unable to work);
  • Whether the deceased worker was ever in the active military service (if "Yes," we will also ask for the dates of his or her service);
  • Whether the deceased worker worked for the railroad industry for 7 years or more;
  • Whether the deceased worker earned Social Security credits under another country's social security system;
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and Social Security numbers (if known) of any of the deceased worker's former spouses and the dates of the marriages and how and when they ended;
  • The names of any of the deceased worker's unmarried children under 18, 18-19 and in secondary school or disabled prior to age 22;
  • The amount of the deceased worker's earnings in the year of death and the preceding year;
  • Whether the deceased worker had a parent who was dependent on the worker for 1/2 of his or her support at the time of the worker's death; and
  • Whether the deceased worker and surviving spouse were living together at the time of death.

If you are the surviving spouse, we will also ask:

  • Whether you have been unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time within the past 14 months (if "Yes," we will also ask when you became unable to work);
  • Whether you or anyone else ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf (if so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied); and
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and social security numbers (if known) of any of your former spouses and the dates of the marriages and how and when they ended.

If you are not the surviving spouse, we will also ask for the surviving spouse's name and address.

Note

You also should have with you your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.