Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article detailing a proposal by the Trump administration to fund a program that would monitor the social media posts of individuals collecting Social Security disability payments.
Details of the proposal are sparse at the moment. Of course, Social Security examiners can already look up any publicly accessible information that claimants post on social media, but doing so is not a regular or required practice.
It’s also unclear what exactly could be gained from going through social media posts. Most individuals seeking disability benefits have “good days” where they are able to be somewhat active. That doesn’t mean they’re in any condition to hold down a full-time job.
Photos are also notoriously difficult to date on social media. Just because a photo showing a healthy individual was posted after an individual was found disabled doesn’t mean the photo was taken years beforehand.
“Social media sites are not exactly clear and reliable evidence,” Michael J. Astrue, the former Social Security Commissioner said at a Senate hearing in 2012. “Facebook puts up phony websites under my name all the time.”
Astrue said that such information needs to be evaluated by “professionally trained fraud investigators.”
Social Security officials are also looking at ways to make it more difficult to qualify for benefits using vocational factors such as age, education, and job experience, according to the article.
Current Social Security rules make it easier for individuals over the age of 50, particularly those with limited education and work experience, to qualify for disability.