According to talkpoverty.org, two thirds of disability claims are initially denied — and almost half of those people are later deemed eligible on appeal. A selfie in a cute bikini on a beach in Hawaii to Instagram or sharing protest pics on Twitter shouldn’t be grounds for being denied disability benefits, but if an expansion of social media surveillance at the Social Security Administration goes through, that’s exactly what could happen.
An Instagram story from a low-pain day or a Facebook post with an old photo might be used against an applicant for disability benefits, a change from the status quo where the agency only looks at social media in cases of suspected fraud. Thanks to a New York Times story suggesting a tiny line item in the agency’s 2019 fiscal year budget overview will turn into a real policy, the disability community is very worried.
All this for an agency with a “fraud incidence rate that is a fraction of one percent.”
The proposed expansion of social media monitoring for the nearly 20 million Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income recipients would have several negative effects, among them that disability activists who organize and build community online may be hesitant to do so. It will also feed directly into myths about Social Security fraud that have been wildly overstated in media coverage, such as a 2017 Washington Post series or a 2013 NPR feature package that made it seem as though “undeserving” people were lining up for disability benefits. (The average monthly benefits are under $1,300; being on disability is hardly a profitable endeavor.) Read more.
Take Action: Defend the privacy of our disabled neighbors. [h/t Talk Poverty]
Call: Or write your two senators and one House rep (look up).
Script: Hi. I’m calling from [ZIP] to support privacy rights for disabled people applying for Social Security benefits. The administration’s new budget proposes monitoring people’s social media accounts as part of determining eligibility. Since the SSA’s own analysis finds fraud in only 1% of disability payments, this practice would invade privacy and waste limited resources. I’m asking [NAME] to publicly denounce invading citizens’ privacy and hold OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and SSA Commissioner Nancy Berryhill accountable.
Bonus: OH and PA residents, thank Sens. Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey for leading public opposition.
Thanks to our friends at Americans of Conscience for this action. Follow and subscribe at AmericansofConscience.com