Navigating the Social Security System

How do you apply for an original or replacement Social Security card? Simple, just complete the attached Form SS-5 and submit the required evidence.

Well, maybe it’s simple and maybe not. It can be a very frustrating process if you submit the incorrect evidence or photocopies. Social Security does not accept photocopies to issue or reissue a Social Security card. Remember: The requirements are there to protect you from identity theft.

The attached Form SS-5 includes explanations of what is and is not acceptable evidence. The biggest mistake people make is to submit their birth certificate to get a replacement card (marriage, lost card, or name change). A birth certificate is proof you were born, not proof of identity. You submit a birth certificate only when a new card is being issued (newborn child). After that, the birth certificate is useless as proof of identity because anybody can access it. Replacement cards require proof of identity.

Complete the SS-5 and submit it along with the required evidence to your local Social Security office. I would strongly advise you to take the paperwork to your local office and do it in person when possible. Avoid Mondays and days after holidays. Some offices have a special line just for Social Security card applications and you don’t have to take a number.

If you mail in the paperwork, it could take weeks before an employee gets to it. Then, it takes about two weeks for the card to be issued and received. If you complete the paperwork in person, it’s usually processed the same day. Moreover, do you really want to mail your original marriage certificate or another important document?

Please refer to the attached form SS-5 and instructions and contact me with any questions.

I hope this information is useful and helps you navigate the Social Security system better.


About Dennis Heywood

Denny’s career with Social Security provides an in-depth, working knowledge of the Social Security Administration’s internal organization and processes. An expert in all phases of SSA programs: retirement, survivor, disability, and Medicare, Denny has expertise with the complex Social Security regulations based on more than 40 years experience.

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