If you’ve applied for social security disability, whether it is for SSI or SSDI benefits, or if you are currently receiving social security disability benefits, it is important to be aware that the social security administration can revoke those social security disability benefits and take them away from you if they feel that you either do not qualify or no longer fit the criteria or definition of being disabled.
The social security administration can do this a number of ways, but one of the main ways they do this is through video surveillance. Accordingly, it is important to understand just what social security disability surveillance is, disability surveillance tactics, how it can potentially affect you, what to do if your benefits are being threatened due to such surveillance video, and the importance of a long term disability insurance lawyer.
If the Social Security Administration or SSA feels or receives reports that you are either not disabled or no longer fit the legal definition of disability, the SSA may legally engage in social security conduct surveillance upon you through SSDI surveillance and SSDI investigations. Moreover, that surveillance may be used as evidence to stop you from receiving disability benefits. Below are two real-life examples of this happening.
In John E. McCauley vs. First Unum Life Insurance Company (“Unum”), although the case did not involve social security disability benefits, it did involve disability benefits that were denied by a private insurance company. In that case, the Petitioner, John McCauley had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1991 and unable to perform his job duties, McCauley had applied for disability or long term disability. However, the insurance company, First Unum Life Insurance, denied his disability claim. After a series of appeals, the case was filed in court, in which the Court held that Unum had a history of denials using fraudulent surveillance. Specifically, the Court held:
“[W]here an insurance company administrator has a history of biased claims administration.” First Unum is no stranger to the courts, where its conduct has drawn biting criticism from judges. A district court in Massachusetts wrote that “an examination of cases involving First Unum… reveals a disturbing pattern of erroneous and arbitrary benefits denials, bad faith contract misinterpretations and other unscrupulous tactics.” Radford Trust v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 321 F. Supp. 2d 226, 247 (D. Mass. 2004), rev’d on other grounds, 491 F.3d 21, 25 (1st Cir. 2007).
That court listed more than thirty cases in which First Unum’s denials were found to be unlawful, including one decision in which First Unum’s behavior was “culpably abusive.” Also, First Unum’s unscrupulous tactics have been the subject of news pieces on “60 Minutes” and “Dateline,” that included harsh words for the company. First Unum has fared no better in legal academia. See John H. Langbein, Trust Law as Regulatory Law: The Unum/Provident Scandal and Judicial Review of Benefit Denials Under ERISA, 101 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1315 (2007).
In light of First Unum’s well-documented history of abusive tactics, and in the absence of any argument by First Unum showing that it has changed its internal procedures in response, we follow the Supreme Court’s instruction and emphasize this factor here. Accordingly, we find First Unum’s history of deception and abusive tactics to be additional evidence that it was influenced by its conflict of interest as both plan administrator and payer in denying McCauley’s claim for benefits.”
In another case in which the insurance companied denied disability benefits, James E. Mugan v. Hartford Life Group Insurance Company, the petitioner, James Mugan, had suffered a heart attack in 2005 and submitted a claim for disability benefits, citing that he had experienced heart disease associated with “unstable angina, ventricular tachycardia, post cardiac arrest mild encephalopathy & cognitive impairment.”
Ultimately, his case was denied by the insurance company and Mugan filed suit in court. Mugan argued that the denial was based on unreliable and inadequately-supported information, and was from the insurance company’s own resources and ignored the opinions of Mugan’s primary caregivers. The Court affirmed the denial and stated that Hartford did not act with case-specific bias toward Mugan and ruled that Hartford did not make its decision to deny Mugan long term disability benefits in an arbitrary or capricious manner.
From the above, the message from both cases is that surveillance, whether it’s from social security disability or a private insurance company, is a tricky and complicated subject and should not be taken for granted. Accordingly, it is important to hire and consult with an experienced disability attorney who can analyze the video and evidence and make your best argument.
Oftentimes, when it comes to disability, whether it’s a disability claim, workers compensation claim, or personal injury claim, the insurance companies will do everything they can to try to minimize the amount of payment to the claimant. This means that they will hire a private investigator to monitor and follow you with a surveillance video camera or camera. You’ll often see this when the claimant goes to the grocery store and push a cart of groceries, play with their three year old as they pick them up in the park, or when they are leaving their vehicle and carrying a bag full of groceries. Even though the surveillance video may be taken of out context or not show the full extent of the claimant’s pain and disability, the video will try to be used as evidence that the claimant is not disabled, even though it may just be a small snapshot of that person’s life.
Unfortunately, surveillance is perfectly legal and is an industry standard. Although you may think that it is an extreme attempt to deny a person’s disability, it is quite a common practice. However, a person still has a right to privacy, so if the surveillance is taken and violates that person’s privacy rights, it may be inadmissible. This is why surveillance is generally taken in public, such as in front of a person’s house or at the store. Anything beyond that may be a violation of privacy.
Accordingly, it is important to consult with a disability attorney to review any video that is being used against you and to see if it is inadmissible.
In order to maintain your disability program, here are some suggestions on how to pass a continuing disability review:
Again, it is important to talk with an experienced disability attorney to review your personal facts and to provide you with an individual analysis of how to maintain your disability and answer any questions you may have.
In order to maintain your disability status or in order to show that you are indeed disabled, the key to success is medical records and opinions. It is not so much that you have a certain diagnosis; the real key is that you have the diagnosis and that as a result, you’ve suffered a certain impairment and the doctor(s) stand behind that impairment.
The greater the degree that the doctor feels that you’ve been impaired and the more it is documented, the better chances will be that you will either be awarded disability or maintain your disability. The medical records must reflect that you are permanently disabled and that you must adhere to certain limitations. The more limitations or impairments you have, the less likely the SSA will deem you as being not disabled.
In order to secure these limitations, you, as the patient and claimant, must discuss your disabilities and impairments with your physician, so that not only they can document what you are saying, but so that they can present a medical opinion not only as to your condition, but what about specifically your condition that makes you impaired or disabled.
In addition, just because there is a surveillance video of you does not automatically mean that all is lost and that you will be denied your disability benefits. The person taking the video needs to be questioned, and the contents of the video must also be questioned.
Accordingly, it is important that you talk with an experienced disability lawyer to analyze your facts and video, and provide you with the best options of what to do.
Like most cases, nothing is foolproof and it can often be difficult to tell whether you won your case or not. Sometimes, even though you may have a good case, you may lose and be denied benefits. Although some administrative law judges have a history of awarding more disability to claimants than other judges, that is not a scientific way to determine whether you may win or not, despite good signs that you won your disability hearing. Ultimately, it comes down to having good medical records, witness testimony, and being able to provide the property testimony so as to establish why you are disabled.
This is why hiring and speaking with an experienced disability attorney is very important. Not only will the disability attorney be able to ask the right questions to you so that you can testify and provide the property testimony, but they will also be able to ask the right questions to the vocational rehabilitation expert, who is present on behalf of the SSA to provide testimony as to what jobs claimant would be able to perform, if any, given his disabilities. Moreover, if a surveillance video is used against you as evidence, that attorney would be able to analyze the video and know how best to support the defendant and argue against it.
SSI can check your bank accounts at any time because you have already given permission to the SSA to do so.
Yes, the SSA can read your tax returns to determine what jobs you have been employed with. If the SSA determines that you have been employed while receiving disability benefits, this may affect your disability benefits.
Depending upon the administrative law judge’s schedule, a typical review can take several months after the administrative law judge hears your case. Prior to that, it may take a year or two before your case is actually heard before an administrative law judge.
The best rule of thumb is to always be on guard. There is no way to know for sure whether or not you will be followed by an investigator, but it is always best to assume that you will be. Accordingly, you should be aware that you may be being spied on and therefore you should act accordingly. You should never do anything that is outside your physical, mental, or emotional comfort level in public, because that one moment you are caught off guard may also be when you are being filmed.
No. By law, first-class mail is sealed against inspection, meaning that government officials may not open it without first getting a warrant from a judge.
Yes. Social media accounts are considered public domain, which means that they are fair gain when it comes to surveillance and disability insurance. Accordingly, if there is a video or picture of you at the bars celebrating a birthday with your friends, or there is a video of you on vacation, all of that can be used against you to show that you are not disabled. This is why it is important to realize this, and if any of your social media posts are used against you, you should contact a disability law firm right away.
Social security surveillance or any type of long term disability surveillance is no laughing matter. Not only can the insurance company or SSA use video surveillance against you, once that happens, it can be very difficult to explain such evidence away. Accordingly, it will take the experience and knowledge of a long-term disability insurance lawyer to be able to analyze the video, your case, and formulate an appropriate defense so that your disability benefits are not stricken.
A disability attorney from the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes can provide you assistance and knowledge about continuing disability reviews cdr, cooperative disability investigations, conduct surveillance, and New York’s Office of the Inspector General. Their offices help disabled claimants in the New York City area including all its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.