Be Careful What You Post Online!

Posted April 12, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may start screening your Facebook and Instagram posts to evaluate your disability claim. At the moment, the SSA’s disability investigations units and the Office of the Inspector General use social media posts to flag fraudulent activity. However, in the 2020 budget proposal released in March, the SSA said it’s planning to expand that usage to review and evaluate applicants for disability benefits. SSA spokesperson Mark Hinkle said the work is “ongoing.”

“We are evaluating how social media could be used by disability adjudicators in assessing the consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case file,” the agency said in the 2020 budget.

Though the SSA hasn’t yet outlined how it might use social media in screening applicants, the proposal has raised eyebrows — and data privacy concerns. For one, unless the agency plans to partner with social media companies for back-end user data, it’s hard to imagine how federal disability examiners could even authenticate profiles to evaluate applicants for disability. Social media profiles aren’t tied to Social Security numbers, and many users set their profiles to private, preventing strangers from viewing them.

Furthermore, social media is often a poor measure of a user’s typical lifestyle, given that Facebook or Instagram users often post only content they want to present to their community. A user with a disability claim may not share how he deals with his disability on a daily basis, but he may share photos from the recent vacation he took to the Caribbean or from the weekend hike he went on.

One disability attorney reported that he had to defend such a post to a judge who brought it up at his client’s disability hearing. The client said the photo, which showed that she went on a hike, wasn’t representative of her typical lifestyle and reported that she was bedridden for three days afterward. “You want to be careful because you don’t want something to be taken out of context,” the attorney said.

Images and videos also have technical problems: A user may have posted a throwback photo to when she was water-skiing in 2016, but the publish date may make it appear the photo is from after she filed her claim. In a world with increasingly sophisticated image-altering technology, it’s also getting ever more difficult to authenticate the veracity of a photo.

“You can’t take someone’s Facebook or other social media posts at absolute face value,” said Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. “They present an extremely narrow slice of someone’s life.”

King noted that using social media when evaluating disability claims comes with a lot of questions and can be highly irresponsible. She said a person’s posts should be used only to flag cases that need follow-up with in-person research. Otherwise, it seems like a faulty system because people have such varying ways of using social media. Said King: “It’s not a recording of your life.”


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disablity Services, LLC®

April is National Autism Awareness Month!

Posted April 5, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.

We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think, and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.

Children with autism may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits if their family’s income and assets aren’t above the SSI limits. An adult with autism syndrome can apply for SSI or for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, SSDI is available only to those with a work history from jobs that paid Social Security taxes.

Social Security updated its disability listing for autism in 2017. Adult Listing 12.10, “Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders,” is now titled “Autism spectrum disorder.” The listing requires medical documentation of both:

  • qualitative defects in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction, and
  • significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities;


  • extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
    • understanding, remembering, or applying information
    • interacting with others
    • concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
    • adapting or managing oneself

Individuals whose claims are not approved on the basis of meeting a listing may still be approved on the basis of what is known as a medical-vocational (“grid”) allowance. The Social Security Administration must consider how the totality of all of your medical impairments, including side effects of medications, affect your ability to perform a full-time job.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your case!

More on autism and the listings:

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Disability Benefits for Liver Disease

Posted March 28, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 30 million Americans have some form of liver disease. Chronic liver disease is actually a category of diseases rather than a disease itself. Chronic liver diseases include: cirrhosis, hepatitis C and B, sarcoidosis, autoimmune hepatitis, liver failure, alcoholic liver disease, liver cancer, hepatoma, and other liver diseases. Chronic liver disease can result from alcohol and drug abuse, environmental toxins, viruses like hepatitis C, autoimmune disorders, and hereditary factors. Symptoms of chronic liver disease include jaundice, abdominal swelling, fatigue, diarrhea, and mental disorientation.

If you are earning less than $1,220 per month (in 2019), and the disability caused by your liver damage has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 consecutive months, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider whether your medical condition will be considered a disability. The SSA will first look to see if your liver damage meets one of its disability listings in its (“blue book”) Listing of Impairments. Adult Listing 5.05 covers all chronic liver diseases. To meet the requirements of the chronic liver disease listing, your doctor must have diagnosed you with either end-stage liver disease or chronic liver disease with at least one of the following complications:

  • excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity (called ascites) or the pleural cavity (called hydrothorax)
  • spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
  • esophageal or gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • hepatorenal syndrome
  • hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • hepatic encephalopathy, or
  • end-stage liver disease with SSA CLD scores of 22 or greater.

The details of the listing are actually quite complicated. If you’re unsure if you’ve had one of the above complications, ask your doctor to look at the listing with you (see link below).

Even if you do not meet the requirements of Listing 5.05, you may still be eligible for benefits. The SSA will assess your “residual functional capacity” (RFC) to determine whether there is any type of work you can still do given your functional limitations. For example, if you suffer from fatigue and need periods of rest, your RFC should state this. Or if your pain prevents you from walking, lifting, or carrying for more than a certain amount of time, your RFC should include this. Depending on your physical limitations, your RFC will have a sedentary, light, or medium work rating. Your RFC should also state any mental limitations caused by your disease, such as an inability to focus or remember things. If your RFC prevents you from returning to your past work and any other work available, considering your age, education, and work history, then you will be found disabled.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your claim!

Adult Listings:

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®