You can apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. Generally, applications may be made by telephone or mail, as well as in person. You may call the Social Security office to see what arrangements can be made. If a disabled person in your family cannot manage his or her own affairs, the application may be completed by a spouse, other relative, friend or legal guardian. You can shorten the time it takes to complete an application and process your claim if you have the following information when you apply: The Social Security number and proof of age for each person eligible; names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and institutions that treated you and approximate dates of treatment; a summary of where you worked in the past 15 years and the kind of work you did; a copy of your W-2 or if self-employed, your federal tax return for the past year; dates of any military service and dates of prior marriages if your spouse is applying; and the claim number of any other benefit you receive (or expect to receive) because of your disability. If you're applying for benefits as a disabled widow or widower, bring the worker's death certificate and proof of the marriage. And if you're applying for benefits as a disabled surviving divorced wife or husband, bring proof that the marriage lasted at least 10 years. For more information, talk with your local Social Security office or an attorney who is knowledgeable in social security law.