How Social Media Might Affect SSD Benefits

May 20th, 2019 by Attorney John Colvin

If you are like an estimated 69% of your fellow Americans, you use at least one social media site. After all, no matter what is going on in your real, day-to-day life, it’s alluring to be able to shape and curate the story that your friends, family, and the public will see.

Your Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds are likely filled with smiles, moments of nostalgia, happy occasions, and aspirations. Maybe you’ve found that gentle yoga exercises help with your chronic pain, and you decide to document that online. Or, on one of your rare good days, you spend some time in the garden and celebrate by sharing a photo of your dirt-stained self.

But if you receive or are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, your social media activity can work against you — even if what you post online isn’t an accurate representation of your abilities and limitations.

Your Newest Follower: The Social Security Administration

Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) turns to social media only in cases in which fraud is already suspected. But if the current administration gets its way, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms will become tools for investigating routine applications. In a written statement, Acting Social Security Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill said her agency is “evaluating how social media could be used by disability adjudicators in assessing the consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case file.”

Social Media Is Not Real Life

The fact that your SSDI benefits could be delayed or even denied because of a Facebook post is troubling on several levels.

  • You don’t have to provide a social security number or any proof of identity to start a social media account. Anyone could set up a profile with your name and the SSA would have no way of knowing whether it’s authentic or not.
  • People love posting “throwback” pictures. But if you’re applying for SSDI benefits, beware of sharing an image of you in your more able-bodied days that could be mistaken for a current photo.
  • A person’s story on social media does not necessarily reflect their daily life. If anything, people tend to project a more positive image online, keeping pain and negativity out of the public eye.
  • It’s not clear whether the SSA does or would have access to accounts set to “private,” but there are possible invasion of privacy issues.

If you must use a social media platform and receive benefits or are in the process of applying for them, evaluate every image and post before putting it out there for your friends, family — and the SSA — to see.

John Colvin Will Be Your SSDI Advocate

Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, notes that while the SSA pays out far more annually to retirees than to SSDI recipients ($950 billion vs. $150 billion), the agency focuses its fraud detection efforts on the disability front. No matter where you are on your SSDI journey, you need a professional on your side.

Call Tennessee social security disability lawyer John R. Colvin. From the initial application to the appeals process to the courtroom, he will gather documentation, build your case, and fight for the benefits you need.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama