Tips for Using Social Media if You Are Applying for Disability Benefits

July 2, 2023

Are you among the more than 70% of us who use social media like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter?

Social media can be a great way to keep up with far-flung friends and family, or just kill time by “doom-scrolling” through your feeds. But if you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, beware. It may not just be your friends and family who are watching your feeds; it may be Social Security Administration (SSA) inspectors, too.

There was a time when SSA inspectors only used social media posts to root out major fraud cases, but there has been a shift in the agency’s stance. Now they appear to be using social media snooping as a way to (in their words) “increase program integrity.” That is, to help spot individual people who claim Social Security Disability benefits without actually having a qualifying disability.

Given the unreliability of social media posts as true sources of information, the Chicago disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law are troubled by the SSA combing through them.

Photos and social media posts can easily be misinterpreted. Let’s say you see a post from a person who is applying for disability benefits due to a chronically painful back injury.

He is pictured smiling while standing on a golf course. How can he be impaired enough to be unable to work (and therefore qualify for disability benefits)—and still able to play golf?

But what do we know about the circumstances of that photo? Maybe it’s an old photo from five years ago before that person suffered a work injury. Just because the golf photo was posted in June of 2023 doesn’t mean the golf game occurred then.

Or maybe he tried to play golf, but had to hang it up after one hole because of agonizing pain. Then his wife asked him to smile for the last photo he will ever get on a golf course and he gamely played along to please her.

With computer programs like Photoshop, photos can be easily altered, too, making it difficult to know what is real.

Furthermore, drawing conclusions from a social media post about a disability due to mental illness is impossible. What does a photograph of bipolar disorder even look like?

Social media is an inaccurate reflection of a user’s typical lifestyle. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter users only post content they want the world to see, and most people would prefer to present a brave face rather than the harsh and often painful reality of living with a disability day after day.

Should you continue to use social media while you wait on a decision in your disability case? It is not necessarily out of the question, but you should proceed with caution. Here are a few tips on how to manage your social media while you are filing for Social Security Disability:

Tip #1 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

On most social media platforms, profiles are not automatically set to be private. Adjust your privacy settings so that only your listed friends can view your posts. For Facebook, go to your page. Adjust your privacy settings by clicking your profile picture in the top right of Facebook. Then select Settings & Privacy, click Settings, and click Privacy in the left column. Set Activity/Future Posts to “Friends” only.

Tip #2 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

Help conceal your identity by removing contact details like your email address, phone number, city of residence and date of birth. Use a nickname instead of your full name.

Tip #3 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

Even though you have applied Tip #1 and set your privacy settings so only people you know can see your posts, don’t post anything that could have an effect on your disability status—in case the SSA still comes across it somehow. Think before you post how the SSA might misinterpret something you’re posting. Pretend that they will definitely see it.

Tip #4 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

Don’t ever, ever discuss your disability claim itself on social media.

Tip #5 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

Don’t post any discussion about recent activities, and don’t comment on social media about any activities you can or cannot do respective of your disability.

Tip #6 for Social Security Disability and Social Media

Sift through all of your earlier posts and delete any that could potentially affect your application.

Even delete photos from a time before you developed medical conditions that show you engaged in physical activity. That photo of you on the climbing wall at the gym five years ago could be misinterpreted if you are now making a claim for disabling arthritis.

Even after you have been awarded Social Security Disability benefits, keep using these tips.

If you are receiving disability benefits, the Social Security Administration is required by law to conduct periodic checks of your medical condition to determine if you still meet disability standards. These evaluations of a person’s disability status are called Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). If after a CDR the SSA determines that you no longer have health problems that stop you from working, your benefits can be terminated.

Winning the disability benefits you have earned can be complex, confusing and difficult. If you are looking for expert guidance, contact your local Chicagoland Social Security Disability Lawyers at Nash Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your unique situation