Donald Trump and Republicans loudly proclaim themselves to be champions of veterans, but time and time again, they underfund veterans’ care and implement policies that undercut their public statements. Now the Trump administration is seeking to implement a particularly boneheaded policy of monitoring the social media of citizens who receive disability payments from the government. In short, if you are a veteran and you post a photo of yourself enjoying life, the government can then determine you do not need to receive disability payments for things like post-traumatic stress disorder.
From the New York Times:
If you’re on federal disability payments and on social media, be careful what you post. Uncle Sam wants to watch.
The Trump administration has been quietly working on a proposal to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to help identify people who claim Social Security disability benefits without actually being disabled. If, for example, a person claimed benefits because of a back injury but was shown playing golf in a photograph posted on Facebook, that could be used as evidence that the injury was not disabling.
“There is a little bitty chance that Social Security may be snooping on your Facebook or your Twitter account,” Robert A. Crowe, a lawyer from St. Louis who has represented Social Security disability claimants for more than 40 years, said he cautioned new clients. “You don’t want anything on there that shows you out playing Frisbee.”
Are people with disabilities not allowed to have moments of joy? Author Dylan Park, who served as a member of a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Security Forces Squadron from 2004 to 2010, used Twitter to describe why this policy is a “fucking joke.”
I had to appeal my case in front of a board. I whipped out a photo of the head of a suicide bomber who jumped on a humvee at my checkpoint and said “This is something I think about at least once a day. Fuck all of you.” They reversed that shit so fast.
— Dylan (@dyllyp) April 14, 2019
— Dylan (@dyllyp) April 14, 2019
Forbes contributor Imani Barbaran broke down why this policy is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of both disabilities and social media.
Disabled people don’t all function in the same way, and disability is not a set of stereotypes like taking selfies staring longingly at the world. They live lives while managing their energy for the activities they can handle and trying to make those they cannot more accessible.
Additionally, studies have shown that a majority of social media users show only the good in their lives, not the hardships or difficulties. Disabled people should be allowed to share the full scope of their existence without fear they’ll be accused of lying—and even fraud—by the United States Government which will likely reason that if a disabled person is seen going to the mall or taking time to swim or jog, they can be working.
For an administration claiming to champion veterans, this is another vile policy undercutting their care. It also seeks to hurt some of our most vulnerable citizens, all while giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people and corporations in America. Who are we? This fight will be yet another example of why the 2020 election will be a battle for the soul of this nation.