When Can I Collect My Check After Applying for Social Security Benefits?

Social Security pays three kinds of benefits: retirement, disability and survivors. Each application process requires completing forms and waiting for approval. Social Security disability takes longer for approval than retirement or survivor benefits because of the medical review process. Survivor or retirement benefits often require three months or less for approval.

Application

Social Security requires application for benefits, and you can complete part of the application online. Social Security recommends applying for retirement benefits three months in advance of when you want payment to start. You cannot apply for retirement benefits before age 61 and 9 months. Age 62 is the earliest age to collect retirement. Social Security survivor benefits require documentation of work history and death of the deceased worker as well as proof of relationship to the claimant. Disability benefits do not cover the first five months of disability. Benefit approval for disability benefits often requires a year or more, but payment is retroactive to onset of disability less the five months.

Notification of Documentation Needed

Once you apply for Social Security benefits, Social Security notifies you if it needs more information for your claim. You may supply paper documentation for marriage certificates, citizenship papers or birth certificates if Social Security does not have these available. Your immediate response moves your claim along. You can bring original documents to the nearest Social Security office and an employee will make a copy. Some documents require originals for approval, but only copies for your file.

Notification of Benefits

If Social Security approves your benefits, you receive written notice by mail at the address you have on file. This notification includes a date when your benefits will start. Social Security pays benefits the month following the month due, so you receive August benefits in September. You receive payment through direct deposit to your bank account or with an electronic benefits card. Social Security is phasing out check payments.

Payment Dates

Social Security payments arrived on the third of every month for years, but the system now works from your birthday or the birth date of the person on whose work history you claim benefits. Birthdays between the first and 10th of the month receive payment on the second Wednesday. Birthdays between the 10th and 20th of the month receive payment of Social Security benefits on the third Wednesday of the month. Birthdays between the 20th and the end of the month receive payment on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Survivor benefit payment dates rely on the birth date of the deceased. Individuals who collect survivor benefits before full retirement age may see a change in the date of payment at full retirement age, as your work history may apply after that date, not the work history of the deceased worker.

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