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SSA to judges: No more Internet when deciding disability cases

Published on May 24th, 2012

Social Security judges have been in the news a lot lately. Last week, we told you about how a judge was recently placed on leave. Now comes word that there some changes afoot regarding what judges are allowed to look at as evidence.

Some Social Security disability claims judges say that they use the Internet as a tool to reveal fraud by claimants. But the Social Security Administration is putting the kibosh on judges using the Internet for that purpose.

The reasoning, according to the SSA: Searching on websites could jeopardize a claimant’s private information, and not all websites on the Internet can be trusted. And while the SSA is not opposed to using the Internet to reveal fraud, it says that job should fall to fraud investigators, and it should occur later in the process, not upfront.

The ban specifically includes social websites such as Facebook. One senator says that giving up such websites takes away a valuable tool from judges, who could theoretically uncover incriminating photos showing a claimant participating in an active lifestyle.

But a spokesperson for the SSA says that adjudicators should do what they’re trained to do, and that is to review files to determine if a person qualifies for disability. The change was announced last month. It’s not entirely clear why the SSA is making the move now, but there have been noted cases of judges having used the internet to try to uncover fraud, which may have prompted the move.

Source: Washington Times, “Web put off limits to Social Security claims judges,” Stephen Dinan, May 3, 2012

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