The Social Security Claims Process

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Social Security claims take time to process. File for benefits, and Social Security works behind the scenes to approve or deny your claim. You must have 10 years or 40 credits minimum work history for retirement; 10 years or 40 credits is the maximum requirement for disability benefits. Social Security bases survivor benefits on the work history of the deceased worker. Social Security processes each claim individually based on work history, relationship and qualifications.

Social Security Retirement

Apply for retirement benefits three months in advance of the date you want your benefits to start. Assemble the information and apply online, by telephone or at your local Social Security office. If you have paid into the Social Security system for more than 10 years, are age 62 or older and have no citizenship issues or criminal history, Social Security should notify you of its receipt of your application and the date your benefits will start.

Survivors Benefits

Apply for survivors benefits soon after the death of the worker, if you meet the qualifications. A spouse without a worker’s child must be age 60 to qualify for survivors benefits but can qualify at any age if caring for the deceased’s minor child under the age of 16. The child can claim survivors benefits if under age 18, or age 19 if in secondary school. The survivor may wait to full retirement age to collect 100 percent of the worker’s Social Security benefit. Alternatively, the survivor may collect survivors benefits until full retirement age and change to personal benefits at full retirement age. Discuss possibilities with Social Security before making your claim.

Social Security Disability

Disability claims take time to process. Make your claim as soon after the onset of disability as possible. Social Security checks to be sure you qualify with work history and turns the medical portion of your claim over to the disability determination service for your state. This service examines your medical reports, diagnostic test results and condition status. The disability determination service may request a physical examination. Once the determination service makes a decision, the file goes back to Social Security for processing. If Social Security approves your benefits, you do not receive benefits for the first five months of disability. Retroactive benefits go to the date of onset, advanced five months.

Supplemental Security Income

Social Security administers the SSI program for disabled, blind and older individuals who need financial assistance. SSI claims require proof of low income and few resources, not work history. Some SSI disabilities qualify for expedited procedures or presumed disability, allowing the applicant to receive benefits soon after application. Confirmation of benefits comes after benefits start in these cases. SSI disability claims must meet the same standards as Social Security disability, and take longer to process than benefits based on age.