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Can My Social Media Posts Affect a Decision About Benefits?

If you are applying for or receiving disability benefits and have a Facebook or Instagram account, be careful what you post. While social media has not had a significant impact on disability applicants in the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely going to consider whether social media posts should play a more substantial role in disability determinations down the line.

What exactly does this mean? In other words, claims examiners may consider the images and words you choose to post on Facebook and other social platforms when deciding whether to approve, deny, or terminate your benefits.

It is critical to understand what you should and should not post on social media during the benefits application process and when you are actively receiving benefits payments. If you are unsure about whether something is OK to post, speak with a lawyer who can advise you on how to protect your benefits.

Lawmakers Advocate for Increased Scrutiny of Social Media

US Social Security AdministrationIf the disability examiners suspect that a claim is fraudulent, the information that the individual posts online may be used in a fraud investigation. Some lawmakers have advocated for the SSA to make greater use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to help identify people who claim to be disabled but are not.

The Social Security Administration Is Keeping Tabs on Fraud

Based on SSA statistics, approximately 5.7 million people received benefits, 56 percent of whom are retired workers and 12 percent are disabled individuals. Every year, the SSA receives hundreds of thousands of applications, some of which are false or misleading. As a result, the SSA is quick to deny claims that it believes are fraudulent.

When people who can work receive the benefits, it disadvantages those who are genuinely disabled and unable to support themselves. In this information-rich age, lawmakers and the SSA hope to use social media to investigate the legitimacy of disability claims and potentially increase program integrity and accelerate the verification of fraud.

What Should You Avoid Posting?

All benefits applicants should exercise extreme caution when posting on social media. Any photos or status updates that raise doubts about whether you are genuinely disabled may result in your claim’s denial.

For example, if a person applies for benefits because of a severe neck injury but then posts a photo of themselves running a race or bowling with friends, a claims examiner may use that photo as evidence to determine that their injury is not disabling.

The SSA considers you disabled if your condition severely limits your ability to perform daily tasks and engage in significant gainful employment. If a claims examiner looks through your social media profiles and finds anything that suggests otherwise, you may be less likely to receive benefits. This would be applicable for all, even for people seeking benefits for a disability over 50.

Tips to Avoid Ruining Your Claim With Social Media Posts

If you are in the process of applying for disability benefits, the following suggestions may help to ensure that your social media does not stand in the way of your receiving the benefits you deserve:

  • Modify your privacy settings

The most prominent social media platforms allow users to limit who can see their photos and personal information. Make sure your profiles are set to the strictest privacy settings during the application process. In addition, go through old photos in which you have been tagged on Facebook or other social media platforms and remove the tag if the photo raises any suspicions.

  • Avoid sharing or posting photos

It is always a good idea to make your social media profiles private. When it comes to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process, however, even the most stringent privacy settings may not be sufficient. You should still be extremely cautious about what you post. In fact, it is best to avoid posting anything at all during the application process to avoid having the severity of your injury or illness misconstrued.

Even resharing old photos can be risky, as the date might not show in the newest post. Furthermore, it can be challenging to determine when a photograph was taken. If you post an old photo of yourself bungee jumping, the claims examiner may not realize it was taken two years before you became disabled.

  • You should never exaggerate your injuries

Finally, it is critical that you tell the truth during the application process or when you undergo the appeals process following an initial denial. Exaggerating the severity of your condition almost always results in rejection as the government cracks down on fraud attempts.

Qualifying Criteria for Disability Benefits

The SSA has already been rigid when it comes to disability applications. If social media becomes an even more critical part of the approval process, disabled people should understand how their conditions are perceived online. All it takes is one misunderstanding to prevent you from receiving the benefits you require.

The Social Security Administration determines who may be eligible for disability benefits by using the following criteria:

  • Unable to do any of the work that was done before the injury
  • Unable to perform any other jobs
  • The disability has lasted at least a year
  • The disability has the potential to be fatal

A misconstrued social media post can jeopardize your chances even if you rightfully deserve to receive compensation for your disability. Whether you are applying for disability for diabetes, depression, anxiety, or any other condition, you will have to qualify according to the listings.

Contact our disability lawyers if you have any questions about how specific social media posts may affect your benefits. Our team understands how the system works and can alert you to any actions that may jeopardize your claim. In addition, we can work with the SSA on your behalf to ensure that your application for benefits includes all of the required documentation.