How Do You Apply for Social Security Benefits?

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As an American worker, the way you fund your lifestyle during retirement or during a time when you become disabled and can’t work will likely include Social Security benefit payments. The money you paid into Social Security as taxes from your paychecks throughout your working life acts as replacement income for retirees, disabled workers and their families.

If you’ve been working in the United States for over 10 years, chances are you’ve been earning employment credits that’ll make you eligible to receive Social Security payments if or when you need them. When you’re ready to leave the workforce — or need to because of a health condition — this program is set up to pay you a form of income based on what you’ve earned over the years.

But when do you apply, and how much money will you receive? To better navigate the process, it’s important to learn the basics about Social Security payments. From understanding the ways the program works to the qualifications that applicants need to meet in order to be approved, we’ve rounded up the foundational details you need to know about applying for Social Security benefits.