Five Ways to Apply for Social Security Benefits

By Deborah Banikowski

District Manager, Syracuse

We continue to make it easier for you to access our programs and benefits. Our website offers a convenient way to apply for benefits online.
You can apply online for:

  • Retirement or Spouse’s Benefits — You must be at least 61 years and 9 months in age and want your benefits to start in no more than four months. Apply at
  • Disability Benefits — You can use our online application, available at, to apply for disability benefits if you:
    – Are age 18 or older;
    – Are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record;
    – Are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death; and
    – Have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days. If your application was recently denied, our online appeal application, is a starting point to request a review of the determination we made. Please visit
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — SSI is a federal income program funded by general tax revenues, and helps people who have little or no income and who are age 65 or older, blind or have disabilities. If you meet certain requirements, you may apply online at If you are not able to apply online, call your local Social Security office to apply.
  • Medicare — Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people aged 65 or older, some people younger than 65 who have disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease. If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, you should apply for Medicare three months before turning age 65 at
  • Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs — People who need assistance with the cost of medications can apply for Extra Help at


Q: I need proof that I receive Medicare benefits. Where can I get a letter proving that?

A: If you need proof that you get Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicare, get an instant benefit verification letter online by using your personal my Social Security account. If you don’t receive benefits, your letter will serve as proof that you don’t receive benefits. If you recently applied for benefits, the letter will make that clear as well. The information on your benefit verification letter will include information that applies to your situation. You can set up your secure, personal my Social Security account at

Q: I was incarcerated for two years. Before I was imprisoned, I received SSI benefits. Will my SSI payments start automatically when I am released?

A: No. You must contact your local Social Security office and provide them with information regarding your release dates. In some cases, it may be necessary to reapply for SSI benefits. For more information, visit or contact your local Social Security office.

Q: Will my retirement benefits increase if I wait and retire after my full retirement age?

A: Yes. You can increase your Social Security retirement benefit in two ways:

  • You can increase your retirement benefit by a certain percentage if you delay receiving retirement benefits. We will add these increases automatically from the time you reach full retirement age until you start receiving benefits or reach age 70.
  • If you work, each additional year you work adds another year of earnings to your Social Security record. Higher lifetime earnings may result in higher benefits when you do retire.
    For more information, visit to read, print, or listen to our publication, “When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.” You also can use our “Retirement Estimator” at to determine your estimated future benefits.

Q: I was speaking with my sister and she told me that she receives half of her spouse’s benefit. Why am I not eligible for benefits from my spouse?

A: If your spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits, you could be eligible for one-half of their benefit at your full retirement age. However, if you worked and are eligible for Social Security benefits on your own record, your own benefit may be higher than what you could be eligible for on your spouse’s record. If you have questions regarding your eligibility for benefits, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.