SSA official recording surveillance on applicant

Undercover Surveillance and Social Security Disability

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Have you heard rumors that Social Security will investigate you if you are applying for or receiving Social Security disability benefits? While it is unlikely that Social Security will hire a private investigator or start combing through your online and social media presence, this could very well happen if a red flag has been raised as to the validity of your claim. Maybe someone filed a complaint or your treating medical professionals have raised some suspicions about your disability. If so, you could be put on surveillance.

Undercover Surveillance and Social Security Disability

While Social Security might not be as intense or proactive as private disability insurance providers regarding investigating claims through surveillance methods, undercover surveillance remains an option if Social Security suspicions as to the validity of your disability have been raised. For private insurers, a thorough background check is likely to be initiated through a third-party investigator. The investigator is tasked with gathering information that will be synthesized in a report detailing things such as where you live and who you live with along with details such as what properties are registered in your name, whether you have any active licenses or permits, and your criminal history.

Social Security is likely to already have these kinds of details in your file but may retain a private investigator nonetheless to further verify these details and more. You see, a private investigator working for Social Security may also be tasked with conducting both video and photographic surveillance. This is common practice when the government or private insurers are investigating potentially fraudulent claims.

The private investigator may follow you or park somewhere nearby outside your residence to try and find out whether you are performing activities that you would not be able to do if you had the disability you are claiming you have. Private investigators will be thorough in the tracking of your activities and movements. Of course, you will not be put on notice that you are under investigation or surveillance. The investigator will be looking to see when you leave your home and how often, as well as what you are doing on these outings.

Social media can also be a valuable resource for these kinds of investigations. While Social Security may approach social media data with trepidation, as posts can often be a poor reflection of the reality of a person’s situation, it can still be used to see if you are acting in ways that are counterintuitive to a person with the disabling condition you are claiming for benefits purposes.

You should, of course, always be honest about the nature and extent of your disability. We realize, however, that life does go on, even for those with disabling conditions. Moving on with your life can too easily be misconstrued in some cases. Because of this, approach the sharing of particular information with caution on the internet and social media as well as when you are talking to others, such as your doctor. Be mindful of your movements and activities in case you are under investigation.

Los Angeles Disability Attorney

Are you worried that you are under investigation by Social Security? Talk to the team at Disability Advocates and proceed with day-to-day life with caution. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.