Social Security: What Is the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool and When Should You Use It?

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If you are nearing retirement age or have become injured or disabled recently, you may wonder if you are qualified for Social Security benefits, including disability assistance, Supplement Security Income (SSI), or retirement benefits.

The Social Security Administration’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (SSA BEST) can tell you in just a few minutes what benefits you may be eligible to receive.

How To Use SSA BEST

To use SSA BEST, you’ll fill out an online questionnaire regarding the benefits you think you may be eligible to receive. Options include:

  • Disability assistance
  • Family benefits
  • Insurance
  • Medicare
  • Retirement    
  • Spouse & Widow(er)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans benefits

How SSA Best Works

When you complete the questionnaire, SSA Best does not store the information and doesn’t share your answers, according to the website. The questionnaire takes minutes to complete and asks questions about marital status, income, and general health, as well as your date of birth.

It does not ask for personal identifying information such as your name, address or social security number.

If it appears you may qualify for benefits, it will point you in the direction to get more information.

Who Should Use It

You should use the tool if you’ve experienced recent changes in your health that prevent you from working or limit the hours you can work, if you or your spouse is over the age of 62 and thinking about retirement, or if your income level or marital status recently changed. Using the tool can save time and help you set your expectations before you begin the process of applying for benefits.  

Are You Retirement Ready?

The Social Security Administration wants people to be aware that the tool is not a benefits application and will not send you free money. Rather, it is a resource that tells you what benefits you might be eligible to apply for. After that, you’ll need to go to SSA.gov/benefits/forms to complete the appropriate form online. If you can’t complete an online form, you can call 1-800-772-1213 for help applying for benefits.

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