Required Documents for Social Security Retirement Benefits

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The Social Security program provides monetary benefits to senior citizens and the disabled, but you need to apply for those benefits before you can start receiving them. As your retirement date nears, you should start to gather the documents you will need to claim the benefits you have earned throughout your working life.

Birth Certificate

You need to provide a valid birth certificate or other acceptable proof of birth to apply for your Social Security benefits. As your planned retirement date nears it is a good idea to look for this important document, and to keep it in a safe place once you find it. You need a birth certificate to apply for other government benefits, and to apply for a passport, so chances are you already have this document. If not, you can contact the department of vital statistics in the state where you were born to request one.

Income Information

You will also need to provide a copy of your W-2 for the most recent year you worked. If you were self-employed, the Social Security Administration will need to see a copy of your most recent income tax return. You should keep a copy of all your income tax documentation in a safe place so you can use those documents when you apply for Social Security benefits.

Naturalization Papers

If you were born outside the United States, you will need to provide your naturalization paperwork to the Social Security Administration in order to apply for benefits. You must provide the original naturalization papers when you apply for benefits, so make sure you bring those originals with you when you apply for benefits.

Military Discharge Papers

If you have served in the military, you will need to provide paperwork that clearly shows your dates of service, the branch of the military you served in, and your discharge paperwork. It is a good idea to locate these papers at least a few months before you apply for benefits, since that will give you time to contact the military if you find that you need a replacement copy.