Applying for Social Security benefits is now easier for people with limited English proficiency.
The Social Security Administration now offers applications in Spanish on its website, SSA.gov. The applications allow Spanish speakers to apply for some of the agency’s top benefits, including retirement and prescription drugs benefits.
“The goal is to satisfy the need of people who prefer to speak Spanish and who would rather communicate with us through their native tongue,” said Diana Varela, a spokesperson for the agency in Washington DC.
What You Can Do Online
There are lots of things you can do on SSA.gov, from filling out applications and appealing a decision to changing your address and replacing a Medicare card. Until now, however, some of these applications have only been available in English.
To make the process easier for Spanish speakers with limited English skills, the Social Security Administration has translated the applications for the following benefits:
- Retirement benefits: This is a retirement plan for qualified workers in the United States. To apply for these benefits you need to be at least 62 years old.
- Medicare benefits: Medicare is a national health plan offered to people who are 65 years or older.
- Prescription drugs benefits: Social Security helps some Medicare beneficiaries cover the cost of prescription drugs.
What to Do before Applying for Benefits
Varela suggests that you go online to see if you qualify for a program before completing an application. You should then gather the necessary documents so that it’s easier for you to complete the application.
It takes between 15 to 20 minutes to complete the online application for benefits, which uses clear and simple language.
"It’s very easy," said Varela.
What to Do after Applying Online
Once completed, the application will be sent electronically to a local Social Security office. An agency representative will determine if more information is needed. If that’s the case, a representative will contact you directly.
In some instances, you may need to visit a local Social Security office. For example, if you would rather hand-deliver original documents, such as naturalization certificates or permanent residency cards, instead of sending them through the mail.
"The idea is that people can complete the process in Spanish from their home," said Varela.