Nearly all Americans will have business with the Social Security Administration (SSA) at some point in their lives. All American taxpayers have a Social Security number, which you’ll need to do everything from opening a bank account to filing your taxes. And all taxpaying wage earners pay Social Security tax, which funds the Social Security benefits that all eligible persons begin receiving when they retire.
As a government agency, the SSA is a bureaucracy, and, like all bureaucracies, the agency is driven by forms. There are Social Security Administration forms for nearly every occasion. The best place to find these forms is at the agency’s website, . Here, there are more than 100 forms for all purposes, some that you can print out and fill out in your own time, and others that you fill out and submit online. Regardless of how you complete your form, it’s good practice to keep a copy for your records, whether a paper copy or a PDF file that you can save on your computer.
Two of the most popular forms are the application for retirement benefits, and the application for disability benefits. These can both be completed and submitted online, without your having to visit an SSA service center or even placing a phone call. Filling out these forms follows an interview process; you will answer questions put to you by the interactive form, and the information will be saved online. Although the forms do not take long to fill out, you can stop the process and save your work, returning to it later.
If you are uncomfortable working with online forms and wish to speak with a human representative, you can also apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213. Or, you can visit your local SSA service center, either by calling first and making an appointment or simply by arriving — although if you come without an appointment, you may have to wait in queue. Please note that, for disability benefits, the SSA must examine and approve your application; if you are rejected, you have the right to begin an appeals process, which is often successful. However,. the process is cumbersome. Even though you can appeal a decision online, it may be to your advantage to work through a representative at your local service center. A “human” is more likely to remember you, and take a personal interest in the specifics of your case.
You can also fill out online forms to apply for Medicare benefits; to apply for a replacement Social Security Card or Medicare card; to report a change of address or phone number; to apply for a new Social Security Card; to lodge a complaint; and much more. Most forms are available in Spanish as well as English. Some forms require additional documentation, such as an application for a Social Security card; in these cases, you may need to print out the form and submit it in hard copy along with your documents. In such cases, it may make sense to plan a visit to your local service center, especially if it’s conveniently located.
The SSA’s website is easy to understand and navigate, and Social Security Administration forms are readily accessible. Be sure to visit the website and accomplish whatever you can there before placing phone calls; you may be able to take care of everything online.