By Adam J. Allegro, Esq.
The basis of this blog is to briefly inform readers of a useful tool which the SSA has made available for Facebook users, while also emphasizing the potential hazards of social media use relating to a user’s claim for disability benefits. I will also provide some tips for minimizing these dangers.
Benefit: Social Security Fan Page on Facebook:
Instead of having to contact a Social Security employee or a local SSA office, a Facebook user can easily access Social Security via Facebook through the SSA’s fan page. This is very useful, as other Facebook users and possibly even members of the Social Security Administration could respond to a posted comment and provide some insight, inspiration, or personal experiences that may help out in understanding how to apply for benefits or what to expect along the way.
The SSA Facebook fan page also includes direct links to parts of the SSA webpage and provides a Frequently Asked Questions section where a Facebook user is able to read about “how to apply for Social Security disability benefits,” how to “locate a local SSA office,” or even seek an explanation as to the “difference between Social Security disability and SSI disability.”
Tips: Avoiding Social Media Dangers for SSI/SSD Claimants:
A social media user applying for disability benefits should also be cautious of the fact that many members of the Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Employees also have access to Facebook and other social media outlets. So, a claimant seeking disability benefits for a serious back injury claiming to be incapable of returning to their previous full-time desk job, who has recently posted pictures, for example, showing their participation in a backyard football game, or running through the park during a 5K road race, may be posting evidence that could be used against their claim for benefits.
The above referenced examples are a bit exaggerated and it important to note that if a claimant is participating in activities that are unsafe based on the claimant’s alleged impairments, their disability claim may seem disingenuous to someone reviewing it, while the activity performed may also potentially put the health of the claimant in danger.
More realistic examples, such as a person who recently posted an old picture showing them performing an activity which was taken before they became disabled, or a picture showing a claimant sitting in the driver’s seat of a racecar despite being unable to drive, may raise the suspicions of a claim reviewer or Judge and potentially jeopardize the credibility of a claim. It is much easier to avoid this situation altogether by being careful about what you say or post on social media outlets.
As an added safeguard, all SSD/SSI claimants utilizing Facebook or other social media outlets should consider using all available security measures, namely setting their profile and posts to private in order to limit who can view certain aspects of your profile. These privacy settings, although a weak alternative to not posting potentially dangerous information in the first place, likely will serve to prevent anyone without access from viewing a user’s private profile information without first getting the O.K. from the user to do so.
In conclusion, social media can be a benefit towards allowing the SSA to provide information to potential claimants. However, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other outlets may potentially be dangerous to successfully gaining or keeping benefits.
I would strongly recommend that participation in any activity which could jeopardize the credibility of a Social Security claimant’s case, and more importantly a claimant’s health, should be avoided. However, as social media is easily accessible by anyone, inclusive of Judges and SSA employees, it is also important to be careful of who can access your social media profile and uploads as well as avoiding any posts which could jeopardize your SSD/SSI case.