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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Social Security No Longer Seeks Information from the Internet in Deciding for Disability Benefits

Last month, the Social Security Administration announced that its disability benefit claim judges will no longer be looking out for information from any website when deciding disability cases.

Some of those judges claimed that taking such significant tool would help in exposing fraud. Meanwhile, several of the agency’s officials said that reviewers cannot rely on information posted online and that the simple act of typing in queries could put the protected private information at risk. Therefore, judges shouldn’t even try accessing SSA claim applicants’ personal information online.

The agency’s ban covers all websites, including social media particularly Facebook and Twitter.

On the other hand, Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and a major taxpayer watchdog, said that avoiding online provided information could possibly meant giving up a very important weapon in detecting fraudulent claims. Sen. Coburn added that even federal courts are relying on the Internet in handling some disability cases.

In his letter to the Social Security Administration’s commissioner, Michael J. Astrue, Sen. Coburn explained that when a person claiming to be disabled publicly posts his or her own picture participating in any sport or strenuous activity, such information can be used by adjudicators to know whether the claimant is indeed disabled, or just feigning it.

The debate mounted modern-age questions regarding the personal information that people make publicly available on the Internet, and how careful government agencies should be in gathering information when it comes to granting disability benefits.

Social security officials said that they don’t oppose using the Internet in gathering important information, but simply want judges to go out and conduct an actual inspection. The agency further affirmed that determining frauds is a job for fraud investigators that would be given proper attention later in the process.

Several Los Angeles social security claim lawyers agreed with the agency’s spokesperson, Kia S. Green, in her message suggesting that adjudicators should stick with their time-tested ways of investigating disability benefit claims.

Years ago, adjudicators were used to decide on cases effectively even before the advent of social media sites and other websites that are providing personal profile. Therefore, the agency officials believed that adjudicators can still perform their jobs quite efficiently even without relying on the internet while investigators can effectively perform fraud tracking.