The answer to whether the Social Security Administration can spy on Social Security Disability Insurance recipients is yes, though the actual observation by the administration is done according to law and is limited in scope.
Find out more about how the SSA may observe you if you are getting disability benefits, what it might mean for your claim, and whether you should be worried about the process below. Then learn how a Social Security Disability lawyer can help you protect your access to the disability benefits you need.
How Does the Social Security Administration Vet Disability Claims?
Usually, the SSA vets disability claims by considering documentation that demonstrates you have the disability in question. This may include medical records, work records that show you are unable to work, and documents testifying to your disability from yourself, loved ones, and professionals such as doctors.
The SSA may also conduct interviews to help determine whether your claims are valid. This is all done as part of the initial SSDI application, and the process can take a while. If you want to ensure the fastest possible SSDI application process and get help avoiding or addressing appeal requirements, consider working with an attorney to file your claim.
What Is a Continuing Disability Review?
If you are approved for SSDI benefits, your approval is not a lifetime guarantee of benefits. The Social Security Administration is required by law to conduct periodic reviews to ensure recipients still qualify for the benefits they are getting. This review is called a Continuing Disability Review, or CDR.
In most cases, the review must be performed every three years. In cases where you have a diagnosis or disability that is not generally considered something that will improve over time, the SSA is allowed to conduct the review every five to seven years.
Typically, a CDR involves paperwork similar to the original application process. The SSA sends you one of two forms. You may receive the Continuing Disability Review Report (SSA-454) or Disability Report Form (SSA-455). You might be able to complete this form online or may have to complete it in hard copy and mail it back.
The purpose of these forms is to collect updated information that helps the SSA determine if you still qualify to receive benefits. The SSA may determine that you are still eligible and that nothing needs to change. It could also determine that you are eligible for benefits, but at a different level, or that you are no longer eligible.
As part of the SSA’s review processes, it is allowed to conduct some basic surveillance. It doesn’t always do this, but the administration may employ these options if it has questions about the validity of any information you have provided. Types of surveillance the SSA is allowed to use include:
- Social media monitoring. The SSA can review your public social media accounts to get an idea of what activities you are up to. If you post information or are included in pictures (even pictures posted by friends who tag you) that demonstrate you aren’t disabled as you claim, the SSA may deny benefits based on this information.
- Video surveillance. The SSA may take video images of you in public spaces if it believes you aren’t disabled and wants to document that fact. For example, videos of you working out in a gym or running around in a park might be used to deny your claims.
- Direct observation. The SSA may have an agent or a third party follow you to observe you in public and make notes about what you are doing. If you are engaging in activity that disproves your disability, this information may be used against you to deny your claim.
What Are Cooperative Disability Investigations?
In cases where the SSA or another official agency suspects disability fraud, a Cooperative Disability Investigation may be launched. This is an anti-fraud investigation conducted in partnership between the SSA and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The investigation is carried out by SSA, OIG, DDS, and state and local law enforcement and is a criminal investigation. As such, it may open the door for the agents to seek even more information about your lifestyle, finances, and other matters than they would be able to get during a regular disability review.
Should You Worry About the SSA Spying on You?
If you are following the law and are claiming disability payments due to a valid disability, you shouldn’t fear the SSA review process. In most cases, the SSA considers information you provide and may follow up with a few questions or requests for documents. It doesn’t tend to spend time and resources spying on people when there isn’t a reason to believe the disability claims are invalid.
However, if you do think that the SSA is spying on you, invading your privacy to a point that is not valid under the law, or denying your claims based on incorrect information or assumptions, you can act to protect yourself. Reach out to Jiles Law, P.A., today to find out how we can help with your Social Security Disability benefits case. We can help you file your application, appeal denials, and prove that your disability is still present if the SSA seems to doubt it.