Information obtained from internet when adjudicating cases

September 16, 2013

With the increased popularity of the internet and various social media websites, many people may be wondering  how the information they post on the internet may effect their claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has included a new section in the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual regarding the use of information obtained from the internet when adjudicating cases. Generally, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), as well as other staff within the hearing office, may not rely on information from the internet unless it has been verified by a Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit (CDIU). 

The ALJ, along with other hearing office staff, are not to conduct independent searches for information about claimants on the internet. If this were done, it could compromise an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII). ALJ’s, as well as other SSA officials, have a duty to protect PII at all times- including while off duty. If, while adjudicating a claim, an ALJ comes across information from the internet that was entered into the record by a SSA or state agency employee at an earlier level in the process, the ALJ will not consider that evidence. 

There are, however, some situations in which an ALJ may consider information from internet sites. These include situations in which the information has been verified by the CDIU and associate with the record, and also when the information was submitted by the claimant or the claimant’s appointed representative. If a disability claim reaches the Appeals Council level, the case analysts are to abide by a similar set of rules regarding information obtained from the internet. 

For more information, the sections of HALLEX regarding information from the internet can be accessed here: http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/hallex/I-02/I-2-5-69.html

The disability claim adjudication process can be a lengthy and intricate one, and not something you should undertake without an attorney. Feel free to call our office should you have any questions. 

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