Using Facebook to Fight Social Security Disability Fraud
Last year, the Social Security Administration suggested that it may expand its use of social media networks to uncover disability fraud. Under the Trump administration, the agency has been quietly working on a proposal to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites to track and identify people who have claimed disability benefits without actually having a disability.
In other words, the government may start to use a Social Security Disability applicant’s social media accounts to look for evidence in their posts that they are engaging in activities (sports, travel, exercise, etc.) that show they are actually not disabled.
Social Security Disability Fraud is a Real Problem
There is little doubt that Social Security disability fraud is an ongoing problem, and in many instances, it is difficult to prove. The White House envisions the use of social media websites as a powerful tool in rooting out those perpetrating fraud. Imagine, for example, a warehouseman who claimed a back injury and is on total disability, but his Facebook account is full of pictures of him water skiing in Hawaii. If Uncle Sam was able to access the warehouseman’s Facebook page, those pictures would likely become exhibits in an action against the hapless water skier for Social Security disability fraud.
Congress hopes that the use of social media networks in disability determinations may be helpful to ensure the integrity of the Social Security disability program, while expediting the identification of fraud. The White House is actively working with Social Security to develop the proposal. The Administration believes that social media could provide a wealth of information about people who are applying for or receiving disability benefits.
Agencies Disagree on Social Media to Uncover Social Security Disability Fraud
Conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, plus many members of Congress support the idea, and see the use of social media as a valuable tool to identify, and thus prevent making disability benefits to, people who are actually able to work.
Advocates for the disabled, however, are concerned that the use of social media photos may not provide an accurate picture, because the photo may in fact have been taken well before the date of disability, and therefore would not provide reliable evidence of a person’s current condition.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of advocacy groups, further suggests that people are more likely to post pictures of themselves when they are healthy and happy, rather than pictures of them in wheelchairs or hospital beds.
White House Makes Plans to Deal with Social Security Disability Fraud
There are more than 10 million recipients of Social Security disability insurance benefits, with a total dollar amount of more than $11 billion per month. According to the White House, the drain on the budget caused by Social Security disability fraud is unacceptable. Although beneficiaries have paid into the system through payroll taxes, President Trump has hinted that there are several proposals under consideration for his 2020 budget that would combat Social Security disability fraud
Politics and the Fight Against Social Security Disability Fraud
Currently, Social Security disability examiners do not look at social media as a matter of course. Any suspicious cases are investigated by the Social Security Administration in conjunction with state and local law enforcement agencies. In the course of the investigation, the use of social media may be used to corroborate suspicions unearthed by other sources.
But using the sites to “fish” for fraudulent claims is another matter altogether, and likely will give rise to privacy concerns, among other things. Already, proponents and those in opposition tend to fall along party lines.
No doubt, getting Congress to come on board in terms of accessing social media sites to uncover fraud would be an uphill climb. The Trump administration has suggested, however, that it may authorize greater use of social media by regulation, without action by Congress. In the meantime, the Social Security Administration, pressured by the White House, has put together a timeline that contemplates publication of a final rule in the spring of 2020.
Long Beach Social Security Disability Lawyers
If you or a loved one is unable to work due to a disabling injury, medical condition or disease our skilled and experienced lawyers are here to help you get the maximum Social Security Disability benefits for which you qualify.
The Law Office of Cantrell Green is a group of highly qualified and experienced Social Security disability lawyers who have obtained millions of dollars in Social Security Disability benefits for thousands of clients in Long Beach, Orange County and the greater Los Angeles. Our lawyers care about every client, and fight tirelessly to obtain the benefits you deserve.