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Applying For Disability? Watch Your Social Media Posts

Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is a challenging process that requires completing a lot of paperwork and visiting your doctor – probably more than once. Soon, it also could require a spotless social media presence.

The recently released proposed federal budget includes funding that would allow the Social Security Administration (SSA) to evaluate applicants, in part, by reviewing their posts on Facebook and Instagram.

The agency’s disability investigations team and the Office of the Inspector General currently review social media to look for signs of fraud, but the proposed budget would expand that.

“We are evaluating how social media could be used by disability adjudicators in assessing the consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case file,” the agency wrote in the 2020 budget proposal.

The proposal has raised concerns about how social media companies would keep users’ data safe. For example, how would the agency be able to determine that they have located the proper John Doe on social media without the help of Facebook and Instagram officials? And how would Social Security be able to bypass privacy setting to access information without the social media giants opening up their sites to the government?

And what if someone who is filing for disability benefits puts something online that isn’t representative of everyday life? If an applicant posts a photo of them standing atop a mountain with a caption such as, “Eureka! I made it,” the assumption could be they climbed to the top. A person with the disability being claimed couldn’t possibly have the ability to do that, right?

That photo doesn’t tell the full story of how a family member drove the applicant to the top to meet others who had hiked their way up to the visitors center. Or maybe the photo was really five years old, before the applicant became disabled, but was posted as a remembrance of days past.

Getting approved for disability benefits already takes one year or longer, and this proposal could lengthen the process for applicants who could be forced to explain their social media posts.