Social Security ALJs can’t google applicants to detect fraud

May 4th, 2012

Agency officials said reviewers can’t trust information posted online, and also said the mere act of typing in queries could compromise protected private information, so they shouldn’t try to access anything.

Social Security’s ban covers all Internet sites, including social media such as Facebook. . .  .

Social Security officials said they don’t object to using information gleaned from the Internet, but they don’t want the front-line deciders going out looking for it. They said that’s a job for fraud investigators to follow up on later in the process.

“Adjudicators should do what they are trained to do — review voluminous files to determine eligibility for disability benefits. Office of Inspector General fraud investigators should do what they are trained to do — vigorously follow up on any evidence of fraud,” said Kia S. Green, a spokeswoman for the agency.

I’m not sure what the protocol for ALJs to supplement the record, but this seems right. Judges shouldn’t do ex parte research that is not known to the parties.