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Could your social media posts threaten your benefits?

Most people on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites use these forums to depict a rosy picture of their lives, with photos of vacations, parties, adventures and family milestones. However, people who are applying for or already receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may need to think twice before they post if they don't want to risk losing those benefits.

A proposal by the Trump administration would let the Social Security Administration (SSA) look at applicants' and recipients' social media accounts to help determine eligibility. The language in the budget being submitted to Congress refers to the SSA being allowed to "use all collection tools to recover funds in certain scenarios." However, a recent article in The New York Times says that social media posts are among those tools.

The proposal has gotten the attention of disability advocates, who note that no one can determine a person's level of disability from social media posts. Many say that the proposal relies on stereotypical views of what disabled people can and cannot do and assumes that if they're depicted in photos as enjoying themselves, they're not really disabled. As one attorney says, "When a disabled person posts a picture of themselves doing something a disabled person should not be doing, it is not necessarily evidence of fraud...." Further, many disabilities aren't visible.

It's not just posting pictures of yourself enjoying a day at the beach that could draw the suspicion of the SSA. Even references to "work" could be misconstrued. People receiving SSD benefits may be able to do various types of work to earn a little money -- such as making jewelry. They might be able to do some volunteer work. However, that doesn't mean they can take on what the SSA considers "substantial gainful activity."

As one woman who writes about traveling with a disability says, "Government spying on disabled people could decimate disability support communities and force role models and retreat into the shadows. There would be no one left to counter the stereotypes, to show that life with a disability is worth living."

Whether this proposed policy is implemented or not, it's important to remember that anything you post on social media could potentially be seen by anyone who knows how to find it. If you believe that you've been wrongfully denied benefits -- for whatever reason -- it's wise to learn what options you have.

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