Will the SSA use social media when reviewing disability benefit applications?

Facebook, Twitter and TikTok accounts could get reviewed along with your disability benefits application.

Those who apply for disability benefits have to get through a lot of hoops to get an approval. The application process is extensive, and the government is known to deny applications on a regular basis. As a result, applicants are wise to have some basic information about factors that can trigger a denial. One possible trigger: questionable social media posts.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the federal agency tasked with evaluating disability claims. The agency has used social media posts to evaluate allegations of disability fraud in the past. For example, the government may use social media posts as evidence to deny disability benefits if a recipient posts a photo of a recent fishing trip, golf meet up or boating outing over the weekend. This, the government would likely argue, is proof the applicant has the physical ability to get a job. Government officials have also stated that, in addition to looking for evidence to support claims of fraud they may start looking into social media posts on a more regular basis.

The practice has led applicants to wonder whether or not the government will extend its review of social media to include those who are looking to get benefits in the first place. Applicants are rightfully concerned for a number of reasons, including the fact that government officials may look over the information on social media that belongs to the wrong person. It is not uncommon for there to be multiple people to have the same name. It is also not uncommon for people to post fraudulent accounts.

Even if the officials are reviewing the right account, the page is not always an accurate, real time reflection of the applicant's life. A photo posted by a social media user of an afternoon the applicant spent playing frisbee with family members may wrongly appear on today's timeline. Without careful review, an investigator my think the photo was posted of a recent event, when it really happened the previous year. As a result, critics have voiced concern the government will not take the steps needed to reduce the risk of using faulty information to guide its decision.

Although the SSA is not currently routinely searching out social media sites for information that may result in the denial of an applicant's benefits, applicants are still wise to tread carefully. The government has stated it could start a more thorough review of this information in the future. As a result, those who plan to apply for benefits are wise to be cautious about the material they post online.