ARE YOU UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE SSA?
How do you know if you are under investigation by the SSA? Most claimants who are seeking disability benefits are not aware the Social Security Administration can investigate your activities. However, the SSA does put people under investigation. Therefore, you need to know that if you apply for disability benefits, then the SSA could be watching you.
HOW DO SSA INVESTIGATIONS START?
Typically, after you file your disability application, it is the workers at the local claim office who start an investigation. Workers at the local SSA office often talk to claimant’s on the phone. Likewise, they may help you file your application. Or, they may call you to ask about your doctors information. During these phone calls, if the worker gets the impression you are lying, then they may decide to start an investigation about you.
The SSA can also receive fraud referrals from SSA’s Office of Hearing Operations, private citizens, and anonymous sources. In fact the SSA wants to expand their investigations of claimants into every state.
Fraud cases, for example, can involve people who file multiple applications for disability benefits in different states. Likewise, many fraud investigations occur because individuals may be claiming disability benefits and concealing work activity. Another example of fraud is lying about your disability. All of these examples are good reasons to investigate a claimant. However, the majority of claimants are not committing fraud.
THE SSA INVESTIGATION USUALLY STARTS WITH THE INTERNET
SSA opens their investigation by looking you up on the internet. They will look up your name, phone number, and address. They usually already have this information, but they are checking it to make sure you are living at the address that you say you are living at. Why? So they can come to your house, drive by hour house, or sit outside your house in a car and watch you.
First, however, they will look at your social media accounts. For example, they will look at your accounts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Why would they do that?
Because they are trying to show you are not telling the truth.
REAL EXAMPLE OF SSA INVESTIGATION ON FACEBOOK
In the following real example, the claimant was alleging disability partially due to neuropathy in her feet. Therefore, the investigator was trying to find information which contradicted her allegations. You will see that we changed the claimant’s name to Smith and took out any private details. However, these are real quotes from what the investigator wrote in his report:
In SMITH’s Facebook account there is a photo, dated June 11, 2017, of her standing and holding a bass guitar. On the same date, there is a photo of what appears to be SMITH from the back, standing on train tracks with a guitar slung over her back.
In SMITH’s Facebook account there is a photo dated May 20, 2018, where she is sitting on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. She is wearing a leather jacket and leather pants. There are other photos of her on a motorcycle ride in 2018.
Can you see that the SSA investigator went onto the claimant’s Facebook account and looked at photos. She was claiming neuropathy hurt her feet. So, he was also looking to see if she was standing on her feet in photos. He was also examining her photos to see if she was using a walker.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE INTERNET SSA INVESTIGATION
The problem with this approach is that Facebook photos can be taken at any time. Just because you post a photo on a certain date, doesn’t mean that you took the photo on a certain date.
In the above case, the investigator claims the photos show the claimant can walk and stand without any problems. The claimant had to refute this evidence at her hearing. She testified that the photos were from her past. They were not taken on the dates they were posted on Facebook.
If you are under investigation, the SSA will look at all of your social media accounts. You should protect your privacy by blocking access to your social media accounts to anyone that you do not personally know. Likewise, you can password protect your accounts to deny access to anyone but yourself.
Upon completion of an SSA investigation, a report detailing the investigation is sent to Disability Determination Services (DDS). A DDS staff worker then decides whether you are eligible to receive a monthly disability benefit payment. Unfortunately, whether the investigation is accurate or not, this same report is also part of the disability file that your judge will read. If there are photos of you or allegations about you from the investigation, then you will have to explain why the investigator is wrong.
It is always best to hire a law firm with disability law experience to speak to the SSA on your behalf. The SSA will not tell you that you are under investigation. Find out more about SSA investigations and Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) here.
YOU MAY BE UNDER SSA INVESTIGATION AT YOUR CONSULTATIVE EXAMINATION
Typically, when the SSA decides to start an investigation, they will have an investigator follow you at your Consultative Examination. The people who follow you are not police officers, they are investigators.
The reason the SSA may spy on you at your Consultative Exam is that they know you will be at the exam. Therefore, it is a good time to watch what you do. Consultative Exams are set up by the SSA. The SSA pays the doctors who do the exams. When you go to visit the doctor the SSA schedules you to see, it is not like when you visit your personal doctor. The results of your examination are not private. SSA’s doctor is doing a one time examination. The SSA uses the results of the examination to determine your disability status. They also use the results of the examination to determine your residual functional capacity.
A consultative examination is a doctor’s exam that the SSA pays for. The SSA schedules the time and place for these examinations.
Most people attend a Psychological Evaluation with a psychologist. Or, the SSA may send you to a Physical Evaluation with a physician. Sometimes, the SSA will send you to both. It is best to go. They will deny your disability claim if you do not attend. However, be aware that you may be under investigation when you attend the examination.
SSA sends investigators to the offices of the Consultative Examiner. The investigator can park outside the doctor’s office in a car. Sometimes, the investigator will be in the doctor’s waiting room, pretending to wait for an exam, just like you. The investigator may start a conversation with you.
Likewise, if you talk on your phone, they will listen. They will also watch how you get out of the car and how you walk. Additionally, they will check to see if you need a cane or other assistive device, like a walker. The investigator is comparing your behavior to the answers you wrote on the SSA’s forms about your daily activities.
WHAT WILL THE SSA INVESTIGATOR DO?
The investigator will listen to you if you are talking on your phone to someone. They will watch how you act and what you do. They are watching to see if you can drive a car. Also, they will write about whether you need a cane or some sort of assistance to walk into the appointment.
If you bring your cane, use it, don’t carry it. They will write down whether you use your cane. Likewise, they will watch to see if someone drops you off at the appointment or picks you up.
If you are using your phone, they might say in their report that you can concentrate on a phone or computer game. Also, if you sit in the waiting room and don’t stand up, but you are claiming back pain, they will write down the amount of time you sat on a chair.
Recently, a person who read this blog wrote to Cannon Disability claiming that this article is not accurate. His exact words were, “none of this ever happens. Social Security doesn’t do this.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.
Every single example cited in this article is something we have seen the SSA do when they are investigating the claimant. We wish these examples were not true, but they are.
THE INVESTIGATOR MAY FOLLOW YOU
The investigator may also follow you in a car if you drove to your appointment. If you drive home or to a gas station or a store after your doctor’s exam, they will follow you. Wherever you go after your doctor’s appointment, they may be following you. If you go shopping, then they will go into the store and watch what you buy.
Their comments will be about whether or not you have physical problems getting in or out of your car. They will also comment upon your ability to walk into the store. Or, they will note how long you can sit or stand. Their behavior sounds a bit like the government’s behavior in Russia or China. Instead, it is happening in the United States.
Even if you are not being investigated, the doctor and the doctor’s staff will also write about you. Often, the doctor is watching you through the window when you get out of your car. SSA’s doctor is writing a report about your physical abilities. The doctor will report how you act, sit, stand, and how you get into and out of the building in their consultative report. They will always write about your ability to get on and off the exam table. Likewise, they will note whether you are cooperative or not.
IF YOU ARE UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE SSA THEY MAY COME TO YOUR HOUSE
Here is the second thing you need to know. The SSA investigators may come to your house to investigate you.
They will typically pose as detectives or perhaps, some form of police officer. You have a right to ask for their identification. They will usually say they are investigating the theft of your or a neighbor’s identity. Sometimes, they pretend they are investigating an internet crime. They might say they are investigating a complaint that you or a neighbor made. Or, they make up some other lie in order to get you to invite them into your home.
Most of the time, they say they think someone is trying to steal your identity. Sometimes, they look up complaints you may have filed with the police and claim to be interviewing witnesses in the neighborhood.
For example, let’s say your laptop was stolen within the last year. They will come to your house and say they need to ask questions about your stolen laptop. This information gives them even more credibility, but they are still not telling you the truth. The CDI unit calls it an “investigative technique,” but the rest of the world calls it a lie.
They are telling you a lie to get you to trust them. They also want you to give them the same respect you would give a police officer. However, they are not there to solve a crime. Instead, they are there to write a report to the SSA about you.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEAK TO THE SSA INVESTIGATORS
Please remember, just because two people show up at your front door claiming to be investigators with information about your identity theft or your stolen laptop, does not mean you need to talk to them.
You do NOT need to let them into your house. Similarly, you do NOT need to answer their questions. In fact, you do NOT need to talk to them at all. You should ask for their police badge or official identification. If they cannot prove they are policemen, do not talk to them. Even if they do prove they are policeman, you do not need to invite them into your home.
Frankly, it would be best for you to not speak to them. Why? Because they are writing a report about you even though they do not have any medical training to assess your disability. The investigators are not medical doctors. They have no training in mental or physical medicine. Yet, they are writing a report about whether or not you “appear” disabled. Does this sound fair or ethical to you?
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE UNDER SSA INVESTIGATION?
If investigators follow you or come to your house, you simply do not need to talk to them. Even if you are not at home, the investigators may ask your neighbors about you. Likewise, they may ask questions about you to your roommate or other members of your family. Unfortunately, many neighbors and family members are more than willing to talk about you to strangers.
Explain to your family members or roommate that you do not want them to talk to strangers about you. Even if those strangers are claiming to be investigating a crime on your behalf.
There are serious constitutional issues with regard to the SSA collecting information about claimants and using it against them in this fashion. There are also issues with the government using taxpayer funds to investigate individuals who file credible claims for disability benefits.
Beyond those issues, it is wrong for investigators with no medical background to make medical assumptions about people with disabilities. Not all disabilities are visible, especially to people who aren’t doctors. Watch out for these investigators. They are not on your side. Please be aware that even if you are on disability benefits, you can still be put under SSA investigation. Find out more about how the SSA can take away your benefits.
CANNON DISABILITY HAS THE LEGAL EXPERIENCE YOU NEED
Cannon Disability has lawyers and representatives in many states. We can help you with your disability claim. Find out more about Utah disability information here. Likewise, find out more about Nevada Disability information here. If you need medical treatment and do not have insurance, then read here to find free or low cost medical treatment.
Cannon Disability Law has been representing clients with disabilities for over 30 years. During that time, we have won over $100 million in ongoing and back-due disability benefits for our clients. We work with you to build the evidence in your case. Also, we will help you from the day you apply for benefits through the day you have your hearing before a disability judge. We can help you even if you live in Idaho, Colorado, and California.
The attorneys at Cannon Disability Law are members of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives (NOSSCR). NOSSCR is a national group whose members dedicate themselves to assisting disability claimant’s. We attend NOSSCR conferences every year to make sure we are up to date on the law that effects your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation. Let us help you win your case, whether or not you are under SSA investigation.
MEDICARE AND MEDICAID BENEFITS ARE AT RISK TOO
Additionally, your ability to receive Medicaid and Medicare depends upon whether you win your disability claim. Learn more about Medicaid benefits here. Also, you can learn more about your Medicare benefits here on our website. Even your future retirement benefits are at risk if you do not win benefits.
You also need to be able to hire an attorney without worrying about whether or not you can pay the attorney fee. At Cannon Disability Law, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means if you do not win benefits, you do not owe an attorney fee. Therefore, hiring us to represent you creates no financial risk for you. Again, you only pay an attorney fee if and when we win your SSD & SSI case.
Ask yourself, when you hire a representative, what it is you are looking for. We think you should want a firm that you can work with and who cares about you. Also, find a firm who understands Social Security’s rules and regulations. In short, you need a disability advocate on your side to win benefits. You must replace your income. Do it with disability benefits. Ask Cannon Disability to help you today.
HIRE CANNON DISABILITY LAW TO HELP YOU IN YOUR DISABILITY CASE
The SSA investigators are writing a report that says you are not disabled. They are doing this even though they are not actually qualified to make that determination. However, you do not need to feel paranoid about SSA investigations. Investigations are not done in every SSD and SSI case. Importantly, if you are not committing fraud, then you have nothing to worry about. However, it is good to be aware of the SSA’s investigative techniques. If you believe someone is watching you or following you, then ask them to stop.
Whether you like it or not, the SSA conducts investigations into people who are seeking disability benefits. Can you see that you need a legal team with experience to represent you before the SSA?
Not only do you need an attorney in court, you need a legal team to help you apply for benefits and appeal SSA denials. Also, you need to make sure your paperwork is correct. Don’t give the SSA a reason to investigate you.
In court, you also need an advocate to explain to a judge why SSA’s investigators should not be evaluating your disability. Make sure that your attorney requests that SSA’s investigation report is taken out of the record. Your attorney should do this because the people who wrote the report are not doctors. Therefore, their “medical” opinion about your disability should be removed from the record because it is meritless.