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SSA: no more Internet searches for judges

The Social Security Administration has prohibited judges from searching websites during disability claims cases. The prohibition is disconcerting for some judges, who say that the Internet helps them root out potential fraud related to Social Security Disability for injuries.

The prohibition is designed to protect individuals who are applying for disability benefits, and SSA officials say that judges have previously trusted unreliable information to make crucial decisions. In addition, the privacy of applicants is often compromised by judges' simply typing in their names as part of a search query.

A U.S. senator has complained that the Internet ban will lead to more fraud. He said that information from the sites has helped ferret out fraud in the past.

SSA officials say that fraud investigators should be the ones using the Internet to investigate claims. Judges are supposed to provide impartial rulings in all cases, and access to the Internet could be detrimental to their neutrality. Judges should review available files and evidence to determine whether the person is reasonably considered eligible for disability benefits.

The debate about this issue is likely to rage, as both sides vehemently argue their cases. A balance must be struck to prevent judges from unnecessarily denying claims. No one argues the fact that it's wrong to defraud the government of benefits that disabled people need, but it's also important to realize that there are lawmakers who want to cut most federal entitlement programs to the point that people who actually need them will be cut off. Politicians should instead focus their efforts on making sure Social Security stays solvent.

Source: The Washington Times, "Web put off-limits to Social Security claims judges," Stephen Dinan, May 3, 2012.

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