You’ve worked hard to apply for disability, and you want to make sure you receive and keep your benefits. Will the SSA be watching you? If you’ve heard of private insurance companies following people after they file a claim, you may be wondering if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will do the same thing to you.
Will the SSA put you under surveillance to determine the validity of your claim? Presumably, no. It’s highly unlikely that the SSA will follow you or conduct surveillance on you—though it isn’t impossible.
What Surveillance Methods Could the SSA Use?
Even though it’s not common for the SSA to do so, there are a few methods it could use to monitor you and validate your claim. The SSA will likely only use these methods if it finds contradictory evidence or suspects your claim is fraudulent.
- Observation. The SSA could send someone to monitor your day-to-day activities and follow you in public places. This person would likely be a state police officer.
- Video Surveillance. Taped video from surveillance cameras could show you are ineligible for benefits if the video catches you doing something you shouldn’t be able to do in your condition.
- Social Media. The SSA may look at your social media accounts to help determine if you qualify for benefits. You’ll want to be careful of what you post. Photos on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms can be deceiving. You may post pictures from several years ago, before your condition, but the post’s recent date could cause the SSA to be suspicious.
When Does the SSA Look Into Your Case?
The SSA reviews your case when you apply for disability and periodically throughout your life as you continue to receive benefits.
Applying for Disability
When you apply, the SSA must determine if you meet its definition of disabled. The SSA looks for answers to these questions:
- Are you working?
- Is your condition severe?
- Is your condition on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions?
- Can you do the work you used to do?
- Can you do other types of work?
The SSA uses your online application (or phone interview) and relevant medical evidence to approve or deny your claim. It could use other methods, like reviewing your social media, to help determine if you are eligible for benefits.
Continuing Disability Reviews
Every few years, the SSA will perform a continuing disability review (CDR) to determine if your condition has improved. The purpose of a CDR is to check that you still meet the requirements for benefits. Here’s a brief, step-by-step summary of the CDR process:
- The SSA will send you one of two forms asking about your daily activities, doctor’s visits and general health. You will fill out the form and send it back to the SSA.
- As you complete the form, the SSA reviews your medical records from the past year and requests records from the medical professionals you see for treatment.
- The SSA can request that you receive a free, consultative exam from an SSA-approved doctor if it does not find enough medical evidence to support your eligibility.
Why Would the SSA Investigate You?
New medical evidence, new treatment options, and actions like returning to work or refusing your doctor’s treatments can trigger disability reviews. It’s not common for the SSA to put you under surveillance during a disability review, but the agency will consult your doctors and could request that you receive an exam.
If you’ve been honest about your condition, the SSA won’t have a reason to look into your case outside of periodic reviews. Even then, if you are still rightfully eligible for benefits, the review process shouldn’t be a problem.
If the SSA suspects you are lying about your current condition, it could conduct surveillance on you during the review process. The SSA has reason to investigate further if you’ve:
- Lied about your condition
- Concealed your work activity
- Received benefits for a child that’s not under your care
- Not notified the SSA of a someone’s death while continuing to receive their benefits
When the SSA uncovers fraud, like the examples above, the cases are turned over to the Department of Justice.
It’s not likely that the SSA will surveil you as you apply for or receive benefits, but it could happen. As long as you are honest with the SSA, knowing that the agency could keep tabs on you shouldn’t be a concern.
Are you ready to apply for Social Security benefits?
Contact Reynolds and Gold. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the process and answer your questions.