Comparing Social Security and SSI

Social Security

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When And How To Apply For Social Security Or SSI

You should apply for Social Security or SSI disability benefits when you become too disabled to work and for survivors benefits when a family breadwinner dies.

When you're thinking about retirement, you should talk to a Social Security representative in the year before the year you plan to retire. It may be to your advantage to begin receiving your retirement benefits before you actually stop working.

To file for benefits, get information or speak to a Social Security representative, call our toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can use that number to set up an appointment to visit your local Social Security office. Our lines are busiest early in the week and early in the month, so, if your business can wait, it's best to call at other times.

You can also apply online for Social Security retirement, Medicare, disability or spouses' benefits.

When you file for benefits, you may need to submit documents that show you're eligible, such as a birth certificate for each family member applying for benefits, a marriage certificate if your spouse is applying and your most recent W-2 form (or tax return if you're self-employed).

You'll need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. We will make photocopies and return your original documents.

The Social Security Administration treats all calls confidentially--whether they're made to our toll-free numbers or to one of our local offices. We also want to ensure that you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some incoming and outgoing telephone calls.