In the United States, the Social Security Administration offers several types of benefits, including retirement, disability, and supplemental security income. If you are eligible for one or more of these benefits, you must apply in order to begin receiving them. This article includes tips on how to correctly file for Social Security benefits in order to increase your chances of receiving them and maximize the amount you receive.

Understand Your Eligibility

Before you file for Social Security benefits, you should confirm your eligibility. There is no reason to file if you are ineligible. The eligibility qualifications for each type of Social Security benefit are as follows.


  • Work for at least ten years
  • Be age 62 or older


  • Work for at least a certain duration within the past several years
  • Be unable to work because of a physical or mental condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least 1 year or result in death


  • Be the spouse of somebody who receives Social Security benefits
  • Be 62 or older OR care for the worker’s child who is under 16 or has a disability


  • Be the unmarried child of a person who receives Social Security benefits
  • Be younger than 18 OR
  • Be between 18 and 19 years old and a full-time student OR
  • Be 18 or older and have a qualifying disability that began before the age of 22


  • Be the divorced spouse of a person who receives or is eligible to receive Social Security benefits
  • Have been married to the worker for at least 10 years OR
  • Have been divorced from the worker for at least two years if they have not yet filed for benefits
  • Be at least 62 years old
  • Be unmarried
  • In some cases, not be entitled to or eligible for a benefit on your own work equal to or higher than half the full amount the worker is eligible for


  • Be the surviving spouse of a deceased person who qualified for Social Security benefits
  • Be 60 or older OR
  • Be 50 or older with a qualifying disability OR 
  • Be any age and care for the worker's child who is under 16 or has a qualifying disability 


  • Be the child of a deceased person who qualified for Social Security benefits
  • Be unmarried
  • Be younger than 18 years old OR
  • Be between 18 and 19 years old and a full-time student OR
  • Be 18 or older and have a qualifying disability that began before the age of 22

Supplemental Security Income

  • Be 65 or older OR
  • Be blind or have another qualifying disability 
  • Meet income eligibility requirements

Note that the exact work requirements for Social Security benefits are based on a system of work credits. To learn more about Social Security work credits, read this guide.

Check Your Earnings Record

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your earnings history, so it’s important that it has been reported accurately. You can check the Social Security Administration’s website to confirm the record is accurate and correct any mistakes if there are any.

Maximize Timing

For Social Security retirement benefits, the older you are when you apply, the more money you will receive every month. While you can begin taking benefits from age 62 onwards, this is considered taking benefits early. It is only after full retirement age, which ranges from 66 to 67 depending on your birth year, that you can begin receiving full benefits. 

However, if you delay taking benefits until as late as 70 years old, you will receive delayed retirement credits and a higher monthly payment. If your circumstances allow for it, delaying retirement benefits may be advantageous.

Additionally, try to make sure that you have worked for at least 35 years before retiring, as this is the number that your earnings record is based on. If you work less than this, you will be assigned a yearly income of zero for each non-working year, which will reduce your monthly benefit.

Consider Family Benefits

If you have a spouse who is eligible for Social Security benefits, you are entitled to 50% of their benefits if this number is higher than what you are eligible for. Additionally, you may be entitled to claim benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record.

Don’t Forget About Taxes

If you have income from sources other than Social Security benefits, a portion of your benefits may be subject to federal income taxes. It may be wise to limit your income in order to avoid paying these taxes.

Get Expert Help

As you can see, there are a number of factors that play into your Social Security benefit eligibility and amount. It can be a bit tricky to keep track of it all. That is why it is highly recommended to work with a professional who can help you understand your options, maximize your benefits, and submit your application. This is the best way to optimize your filing.

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