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Social Security Administration may start watching social media

Americans have an ongoing love affair with social media -- and it has become normal for many people to post regular updates about their lives on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Well, now, Uncle Sam -- in the form of the Social Security Administration (SSA) -- would like to take an unfettered peek at what you post. That way, they can use your posts in order to weigh the veracity of your disability claims.

Critics of the Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income program claim that it's rife with abuses and that all sorts of people who aren't really disabled are just lolling around on the system. That view ignores the fact that there's a pretty rigorous process that claimants have to go through in order to get approved.

While abuses have been found, they're fairly few and usually involve a number of complicit individuals. The average person simply isn't going to be able to fake his or her way through the doctor's visits and medical exams required to establish eligibility for disability benefits.

However, the Heritage Foundation says otherwise. They point to the Office of the Inspector General's 2014 use of social media to help find over 100 people who were defrauding the government. Their social media pages were full of photos of supposedly physically disabled individuals driving motorcycles, participating in karate and riding on jet skis.

The SSA is now thinking about letting initial examiners take a look at their claimants' social media pages before benefits have been awarded. Unfortunately, this means that a claims examiner could decide that just about any photo or comment is "proof" that you aren't disabled. For example, that photo of you smiling through your pain at a grandchild's birthday party could be evidence that you aren't nearly as physically limited as you claim (since you are sitting in a restaurant). Since you're smiling, you obviously couldn't be suffering from pain, right?

Issues like this are just a reminder that claimants for disability benefits need all the help they can get these days.

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