It may make you feel uncomfortable, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) is within its rights to surveil people who are applying for disability benefits. They can hire a private investigator to follow you when you are in public and gather other publicly available data.
They usually do not do this, but they may decide to take this extra step if they have found red flags that may cast doubt on your eligibility for benefits. The SSA may be more likely to hire a private investigator if a treating doctor has said he or she is suspicious about the severity of your disability.
Below, learn more about surveillance of Social Security Disability applicants. We also discuss steps you may be able to take to help protect your claim.
At Schmidt Kramer, our Harrisburg-based Social Security Disability lawyers have been helping people with disabilities pursue and recover the benefits they need for many years. There are no upfront fees for our services, and we can guide you throughout the process, including an appeal if your application was denied.
Schedule a free consultation to learn how we may be able to help. (717) 727-2550
Surveillance Tactics That May be Used
There are various tactics private investigators employ to observe people and try to gather information:
Monitoring Your Social Media Accounts
No matter how private you may think your social media accounts are, private investigators may be able to gather information from these profiles. They are looking for pictures, videos, posts, or comments on posts related to your medical issues.
Posts that may seem to indicate you are not disabled, or not as severely disabled as you claim, may hurt your eligibility status. Even posts from other people on your pages may hurt your application.
When you are applying for benefits, it may be best to stop posting anything on these pages. You may even want to advise friends and followers to avoid posting things on your page. If you do continue posting on social media, avoid talking about traveling, exercising, going to social events or other things that may make it appear as though you live an active lifestyle.
The SSA has slowly been increasing reviews of applicants’ social media accounts.
Observing You in Public
Private investigators are within their rights to follow you around in public. They may want to see if you can still drive and what physical activities you engage in while you are in public. They may note if, and when, you need assistance with different tasks or use assistive devices. They may note how long you were able to sit or stand.
Taking Pictures or Recording You
Private investigators may record you when you are in public. They may be looking to see if you do activities that you said you could not. Video of you doing strenuous physical activity (lifting heavy things, walking long distances, etc.) could hurt your claim. However, it is important to note they can only take pictures or record you while you are in public.
It is possible for the SSA to obtain video footage from establishments, like grocery stores and gyms the applicant frequents.
What Should You do if You are Being Followed?
Even if you are being followed by a private investigator, you are unlikely to realize it. Private investigators do their best to stay out of sight. They want to observe you without you knowing you are being watched so you will act natural.
It is important to not be concerned about it. You do not have anything to hide if you are sticking to the doctor’s orders and only doing things you are capable of.
If you have not yet met with an attorney, you should strongly consider doing so. An attorney can review your application and determine if you need to gather more information. He or she can also try to counter arguments made based on information that was gathered by a private investigator.
Using Investigators During Continuing Disability Reviews
If you have already been approved for benefits, the SSA will conduct periodic reviews of your application to determine if you are still eligible for benefits. They want to see if your symptoms have improved or become more manageable.
It is possible, but unlikely, they might use a private investigator during a continuing disability review. They will likely rely on the continuing disability review to uncover the evidence they need to find you are still disabled or no longer qualify for benefits.
Schmidt Kramer is Here to Help. Call Today
Did you know many initial applications for disability benefits are denied?
You may think you have quite a strong case for receiving benefits, but your application may not reflect that. And if your claim has already been denied, are you prepared to go through the appeal process?
Schmidt Kramer’s licensed attorneys are prepared to guide you through each step of the process at no upfront cost. We have many years of experience and a track record of success with these claims.
Contact us today to discuss what we can do for you. Call (717) 727-2550.