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SSA Disability Decisions- Can Administrative Law Judges review online information?

In the past it has not been usual for Administrative Law Judges to seek additional information about disability applicants online on websites, including social medial sites such as Facebook. Updates to disability decision policy, however, has banned such practices making it against regulations for judges to seek out information from websites prior to ruling on an SSI or SSDI case.
Social Security Administration Office of Inspe...

According to an article  in the Washington Post, Social Security Administration officials claim that not only do such judicial searches compromise an individual’s private information it also detracts from the Administrative Law  judges primary responsibility of reviewing the claimant’s medical records and making the disability decision.

Proponents of the judge’s searches disagree. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma believes that online searches are a great tool for judges whose responsibility should include detecting fraudulent claims.

In a letter Senator Coburn wrote to the Social Security Administration (SSA) commissioner he stated, “If an individual claims to be disabled, and then publicly posts a picture participating in a sport or physical activity on a social media website, such information should be used by [adjudicators] to determine if the claimant was truly disabled.”

If SSA Administrative Law Judges are not allowed to investigate potential fraud who is looking out for the public’s welfare? According to the SSA, this is the job of the Social Security Administration fraud investigators who are trained to detect such illegal activities. According to Kia Green who works for the Social Security Administration, the Office of Inspector General has trained investigators who have the proper tools and resources to detect fraud within the disability system.

Coburn and others disagree claiming that Administrative Law Judges should be a first line of defense for detecting fraud and making good disability decisions on behalf of the U.S. public. Many Administrative Law judges agree claiming that with their knowledge and experience they can review public online information and decide the validity of the information for their SSI or SSDI case.

The new policy was implemented in March, but there is evidence that judges have used online information to deny claimants in the past. For instance, some claimants have posted pictures on Facebook showing themselves engaged in difficult physical activities, which has led to the question of whether or not they are severely disabled.

It is not clear how the new policy will affect the judge’s decision making, but SSI and SSDI claimants should know that anything they post online may be considered public information and may be accessed by an investigator in the Office of the Inspector General who is looking for disability fraud.

Social Security Administration (SSA) disability fraud can lead to serious charges and could result in mandatory repayment of fraudulent disability benefits and prison. Consider Ronnie George and Nancy Stone of Kent, Washington, after defrauding the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability benefits George was ordered to pay $315,318 in restitution and Stone was found to be jointly responsible for $275,965 of the restitution.

This case is one of many disability fraud cases that are currently being investigated by U.S. District Courts throughout the United States.
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