No one who’s legitimately eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits wants people defrauding the Social Security Administration (SSA) and taking money that should be used for those who are truly ill or injured. However, just how rampant fraud and abuse are is a matter of debate. The SSA’s own numbers show that it’s relatively rare and that funds obtained fraudulently are often recovered.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration is seeking to increase the SSA’s use of social media monitoring to find evidence of fraud by claimants. The idea of monitoring people’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts isn’t completely new. The SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has arrested people for allegedly defrauding the agency based at least in part on photos posted to social media that called into question whether they warranted disability payments.
However, if the administration and conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation have their way, this social media monitoring will be expanded to allow front-line staffers to look at people’s social media as they evaluate benefit applications. It should be noted that even a research fellow with Heritage acknowledges, “Outright fraud is actually a pretty small component of the program’s problems.”
That group is advocating for reforms to SSDI eligibility determinations beyond searching applicants’ Facebook pages and other social media activity. Among them are stricter eligibility requirements.
Disability advocates point out some serious flaws in this social media monitoring strategy. For example, not all disabilities are obvious, nor do they necessarily prevent people from participating in athletic activities. Moreover, no one can know when a photo was taken. Further, most people present a rosier picture of their life on social media than the reality they’re living.
The SSA is not adding fuel to the fire that’s erupted with these recent reports that it intends to increase its social media scrutiny of applicants or claimants. A spokesman said, “Social Security does not currently pursue social media in disability determinations, and we don’t have other information to provide at this time.”
Dealing with the SSA, as with just about any government agency, can be maddening and seem like an exercise in futility. Whether you are seeking SSDI benefits, if your application for benefits has been denied or if you’ve been notified that the SSA is ending your benefits, it’s wise to consult with an attorney experienced in dealing with SSDI benefit issues.