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Does the SSA Use Undercover Surveillance to Verify My Claim?

Gordon, Wolf & Carney June 19, 2023

According to statistics from the Social Security Administration, about 2 million people apply for disability benefits in the United States annually. Upon receiving an application for benefits, the SSA doesn’t automatically approve it. The SSA has been known to conduct surveillance before approving claims and awarding benefits. The purpose of these kinds of investigations is to determine potential fraudulent claims and decide if the claimant actually has a qualifying disability. Depending on the report of the undercover surveillance, your disability claims may be approved, denied, or terminated. 

At Gordon, Wolf & Carney, we are committed to offering comprehensive guidance and advocacy to clients in their Social Security Disability cases. Our knowledgeable Maryland Social Security Benefits attorneys can help you understand how the SSA may investigate your activities and provide you with some tips to protect yourself. We're proud to serve clients in Maryland, and across the nation. 

Is Surveillance Legal? 

The Social Security Administration doesn't conduct investigations as often as private insurance carriers do. However, if the SSA receives a report that a claimant isn't disabled—or not eligible for disability benefits—they might conduct SSDI investigations or surveillance. Some common SSA surveillance activities are as follows: 

  • Direct observation of disability recipients 

  • Investigating suspicious activity 

  • Monitoring the activities of claimants 

  • Monitoring the social media pages of disability recipients 

  • Interviewing claimants and their loved ones 

  • Evaluating financial records, medical records, and other reports and documentation 

  • Obtaining and reviewing surveillance videos and photos 

Generally speaking, it is legal for the SSA to monitor disability recipients both in public and private places. The aim of these investigations or surveillance is to ensure that you comply with the rules and that you are eligible to receive disability benefits. However, illegal activities, such as bugging your phone, trespassing, or hacking computers, are prohibited. 

Methods of Surveillance 

Here are some common surveillance methods that can be employed by the SSA to investigate reports of fraudulent disability claims: 

Background Check: The SSA may conduct a thorough criminal background check to prevent individuals with criminal convictions from receiving disability benefits. 

Surveillance: Through undercover surveillance, the SSA can investigate your activities to determine whether you have a qualifying disability

Tracking: The SSA can track your medical reports and records for possible improvements. This is referred to as a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). Typically, the tracking or review is done every three years. 

Home Visits: In addition, the SSA may visit your house to investigate you. They may pose as police officers or detectives who are investigating an identity theft incident or complaint from your neighbor. The purpose of the home visit is to observe your medical condition, see if you need support to walk or perform various activities, and ultimately write a report to the SSA about your disability. 

Social Media: The SSA may also investigate your social media accounts, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. They will look at your posts, photos, and videos that you’re tagged in to find evidence that you're not telling the truth about your disability. 

Talking to Friends and Family: Lastly, the SSA may talk to your family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and employers. They will ask them various questions about your condition to gather information which might be used to discredit your claims. 

Essentially, all information gathered during the investigation or surveillance will be compiled into a report and submitted to the SSA for review. If your activities contradict your disability or medical condition, your benefits may be denied or terminated. 

Steps to Protect Yourself 

Unknown to you, the SSA may be watching you after filing your disability claims. Here are some tips to protect yourself: 

  • Ensure that you see your physician regularly. 

  • Follow your treatment recommendations. 

  • Report any slight problem to your medical provider. 

  • Do not allow investigators into your home or on your property. 

  • Avoid posting on social media or limit your activities. 

  • Ask family and friends not to post any information about you. 

  • Be conscious of your immediate environment during your claim. 

  • Call law enforcement if you suspect that you're being videotaped, stalked, or harassed. 

  • Consult with a Social Security Disability attorney before speaking with the SSA investigators. 

An experienced attorney can outline a strategic plan to protect your rights and help you get to the bottom of the SSA investigation. 

Get the Answers You Need 

If the SSA receives a report of possible fraud, they may investigate your disability claims. The primary goal of the SSA investigator is to gather information which suggests that you're not disabled or eligible for benefits. That’s why it’s so important to consult a reliable Social Security Disability attorney who can advocate for your best interests and help protect your eligibility. 

At Gordon, Wolf & Carney, we have the diligence and skill to advise and guide clients in the legal matters of Social Security Disability benefits. Our attorneys can evaluate the facts of your case and prepare you diligently for the SSA investigation. Even if your disability benefits were wrongly denied or terminated based on the surveillance, our legal team can help you appeal the denial. 

Contact us at Gordon, Wolf & Carney today to schedule a simple case assessment with our team. We're proud to serve clients in Towson, Maryland, and nationwide.