How Long Does it Take to Process Social Security Retirement Benefits?

by Rod Howell

    With more than 53 million retired workers getting Social Security benefits in 2012, the Social Security Administration receives many applications each month. If you’re about to apply for retirement benefits, you can do so by visiting your local SSA office, or you can apply online, by phone or by filling out an application and mailing it in. You will get a letter from the government agency informing you of the decision.

    Time Frame

    The period from when you submit your application to when you learn if you’re approved or denied varies. It can take the SSA about six weeks to process your application and start your benefits. It might take longer if you supply incorrect information or the SSA needs more information. The number of applications sent to the SSA for retirement benefits could also contribute to a longer processing time.

    Information

    Some of the information needed by the SSA includes your birth certificate, Social Security number and financial documents such as W-2 forms and tax returns if you’re self employed. If you were not born in the United States, you have to furnish documents supporting your citizenship, such as a passport or Certificate of Citizenship. If you’re married or have children, you might need their information as well. You don’t need to have all the documents in hand before applying. The SSA encourages you to apply and supply the missing documents later.

    Benefit Options

    In looking over your application, the SSA determine you can get higher benefits off your spouse’s record or your spouse can get benefits off of yours. The agency might also determine your children qualify for benefits on your record. If any other family members get benefits off of your record, it won’t affect your retirement payments.

    Considerations

    If you have previously submitted an application or claim for other Social Security benefits or Medicare, it may not be necessary to provide certain information as it is already on file. When supplying your documents, the SSA needs the originals or copies certified by the government agency that issued them. Copies that are not certified are not accepted. You will get your documents back unless you inform the SSA you don’t need them.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Rod Howell is a writer living in Charlotte, N.C. He graduated from Thaddeus Stevens College with an associate degree in administration in 2000. He published the book "Capitol Conspiracy" and regularly contributes to a blog as well as various other websites, drawing frequently from his experience as an insurance agent.

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