SSDI Call to Action!

Sounding a call to action to save our access to the SSDI

On Thursday of this coming week (February 2, 2012), the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways & Means Committee in Washington, D.C., will hold hearings that have the capacity to drastically affect the access of genealogists to the Social Security Death Index (“SSDI”) and related underlying information.

You can read the press release from subcommittee chairman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) here and — trust me on this one — it ain’t friendly to genealogists and our day-to-day use of the SSDI. We all need to be crystal clear on this: Rep. Johnson’s bill would effectively mean an end to public access to the Social Security death master file (the essential source for the SSDI) completely.

Only invited witnesses will be allowed to present oral testimony at Thursday’s hearings. In Washington-speak, that means “the deck is stacked.” But all of us, as citizens and as genealogists, can be heard. All we have to do (yeah, all we have to do, right, I hear you, but do it anyway!) is: (a) get the facts; (b) understand the arguments; and (c) speak up — write, call, or e-mail the subcommittee, its members and our own Representatives.

Step 1: Get the Facts

We need to be careful to have our facts straight and not sink access to one type of record in order to save access to another. It might sound easy to argue “it’s birth certificates, not Social Security numbers, that cause problems!” Right. And you know what would happen next, right? Right. We’d lose even more access to birth certificates.

So… don’t wing it! Get your talking points straight from those who’ve worked hard to get the facts for the genealogical community. The Records Preservation & Access Committee (a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) has an online guide you should carefully read.

Get the online guide HERE.

UPDATE: You can also see the RPAC letter to the Committee here.

Step 2: Understand the Arguments

Here’s where we take a step back, each of us, and remember that there ARE arguments on the other side of this issue. People DO have issues with privacy, they DO have fears and concerns, and we are NOT going to answer those fears and concerns with anything less than careful, reasoned arguments.

Step 3: Speak Up!

First off, the subcommittee has a specific system set up for any of us, as individuals or as local societies, etc., to have our views included in the record of these hearings. The system is described in the press release:

Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage,, select “Hearings.” Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Click here to provide a submission for the record.” Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. ATTACH your submission as a Word or WordPerfect document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Tuesday, February 16, 2012.

This link — here — should take you directly to the submissions page for these hearings.

The formatting requirements are:

1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word or WordPerfect format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.

2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.

NOTE THAT TIME IS RUNNING. February 16 is the deadline for submissions for the hearings.

Second, we can — individually and on behalf of any organizations we lead — contact the members of the subcommittee to express our views. Some members accept e-mails from all citizens; others expressly say they only accept and respond to e-mails from their own constituents. Here’s the list with links to the members’ contact pages. You can use these links to either e-mail or to get the address for the office if the member has to be contacted by regular mail:

Members, House Ways & Means Committee, Subcommittee on Social Security:

Sam Johnson, TX, Chairman (bill sponsor) – note: email only from constituents, so write
Xavier Becerra, CA
Rick Berg, ND (bill co-sponsor)
Shelley Berkley, NV – note: email only from constituents, so write
Kevin Brady, TX (bill co-sponsor)
Lloyd Doggett, TX
Kenny Marchant, TX (bill co-sponsor) – note: email only from constituents, so write
Aaron Schock, IL (bill co-sponsor) – note: email only from constituents, so write
Adrian Smith, NE – note: email only from constituents, so write
Fortney Pete Stark, CA
Pat Tiberi, OH (bill co-sponsor) – note: email only from constituents, so write

Third, don’t forget your own Congressional representative. Even if he or she isn’t on the committee, it’s never too soon to start educating the House members on this issue — and letting them all know they have constituents who care about keeping access to the SSDI. You can find the contact information for your own representative by going to the home page for the U.S. House of Representatives and using the Find Your Representative search box at the bottom. Just enter your zip code and click the GO button.

Now… maybe doing what needs to be done to be able to speak up effectively seems daunting. Yeah, maybe it’s a lot of work. But how much MOREdaunting it is to think of never again being able to access the SSDI? How much MOREwork will it be to have to find the information it provides? It’s THAT important. Let’s get to work!

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80 Responses to SSDI Call to Action!

  1. Skip Murray says:

    Thank-you! Very well written. I have shared a link to it with members of Occupy Genealogy.
    Skip Murray

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thank YOU, Skip! This is WAY too important to let it slide, but we HAVE to act together and be smart with what we do.

  2. Ann says:

    Confused on the dates. This all begins on the 2nd and we have until the 16th to comment (using that in the broadest sense!)? Just want to be sure.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Yes, Ann, the dates are correct. The actual physical hearings — at which NO genealogist will be allowed to speak — are this Thursday February 2. But we have two weeks thereafter, until the 16th, to submit our comments for inclusion in the record of the hearings.

  3. Dena Rider says:

    I agree with Judy. What I got from that letter that the congressman wrote is that they, meaning Social Security, aren’t doing their job correctly by having living people on the SSDI. What is wrong with just showing the last 4 digits of the Social Security #? Instead of correcting the problem where it lays, they are just trying to shove it under the rug by taking it away.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Dena, remember: if all we can access is the last four numbers, we’re always going to pay more for SS5 reports. So there is a downside to that. But whatever the solution is here, removing ALL access to the SSDI is NOT the way to go.

      • David Oseas says:

        For genealogical purposes, all of the numbers are significant: the first three numbers (area) indicate the geographic area in which the card was issued; the next two numbers (group) are helpful in determining the year & month in which the number was issued.

        In addition, if the goal is to prevent identity theft, then there should be a publicly available database of invalid social security numbers, so that companies that use the SSN have the ability to validate them.

        The best solution would be for companies and government organizations to stop using the SSN as an identifier. It should only be used for its original purpose: reporting income/making claims for Social Security.

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Limiting the use of the number is probably impossible at this point, David. But clearly — if nobody gave credit to someone whose number couldn’t be verified, that would do more to prevent identity theft than this!

    • Fran Hoole says:

      How can their be living persons on a death index?

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        By mistake, Fran. Purely by mistake. But closing the entire index because of that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

        • Debbi says:

          There are many mistakes in the SSDI. A few years when I checked several members of my family in my hometown I found that the zip code was assigned to a small community which associates with my hometown for shopping, education, most religious affiliations and community groups. This small community has never had a post office (let alone a zip code) and suddenly the zip code’s town was shown as being that for the small community. And now it appears that the SSDI access once available at Rootsweb is now part of Ancestry’s databases and can only be accessed by paid subscription. If we don’t act and show our disapproval of this bill, what will be the next thing that we will lose access to and create problems for recording our family’s history. We may not be totally affected today but our children and grandchildren who carry on our work will be the ones who are most affected.

  4. Dee Dee King says:

    FAX FAX FAX If you have telephone service with free long distance – consider faxing your letters to the various Congressmen. Follow the rules explicitly for the Committee, but consider faxing to the Congressmen. A former aide to a congress person advised me that actual letters and faxes, stacks of written protests, have more weight than email.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Agreed — and good thought Dee Dee! Many of the links below to the Subcommittee members will show a fax number as well!!

    • ralph says:

      Phone calls and snail mail letters get better attention, at least according to one congressional intern I talked to. FAXes are considered a source of spam but letters have to get opened and dealt with. And the phone has to be answered.

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        I sincerely believe snail mail letters — the ones that say “I took the time to write this to you… and I vote” — are the BEST way to go. But if the choice is between not contacting them and using some other method, contact ‘em!

  5. Linda J. Barnes says:

    Thanks so much Judy! I was very disappointed to see how things have been changing with our access to the SSDI hoping that we could find a voice and there YOU are! I will definitely share this info with all my OCGS members and all my genie friends both near and far!

    See you in May – I’ll keep my fingers crossed that by then we’ll have reason to celebrate a victory!

    Thanks again!

    Toms River, NJ

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for joining in the fight, Linda! I’m hopeful we can at least slow this thing down a bit. Sure am looking forward to seeing you all in May!

  6. Debbi Lyon says:

    I just used the SSDI to help an estate attorney find the date and place of death of a person who moved out of state and lost contact with his family. His parents had left property to three children, and the heirs need to sign off before a piece of real estate can be sold. The SSDI in turn lead to an obituary, which helped find living heirs. I forsee serious issues in the legal system if an updated and accurate SSDI is no longer available.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Debbi, please please PLEASE get that information into the format the Committee is asking for and SEND IT IN!! All the sponsors are seeing is how access can (possibly, anecdotally) hurt. They need to hear specific cases where access HELPS!

  7. My Congressman in on FB – is yours? They do monitor the tide of the posts on their FB pages.

  8. Carol Baum says:

    I too helped with trying to learn about a man who died alone in our town, and left no information as to who his family was,so the funeral home and police needed help. The social security number led us to the state he had lived in, and it eventually led us to relations. His birthdates helped too. I am sure that auto accidents and deaths of other kinds give medical and police people a way to find help this way too when checking for the ID’s.
    There are always people who abuse things, but the balance of good use I am sure, is more to the positive use.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Tell ‘em! Tell ‘em! I have no doubt that misuse of the info is the exception, not the norm, but they need to be told — again and again!

  9. John Mac says:

    This is an assault on the Freedom of Information Act. Death data is public. Note the proposed legislation somehow avoids mentioning FOIA. Rep Johnson’s committee has no jurisdiction over FOIA. Not that there aren’t a bunch of ways to skin a cat of carve something out of FOIA.

    The issue of living people being on the DMF (one purported reason for this bill) is real but overblown. It is portrayed by inspector generals and those who hate open records as a problem far bigger than it really is. As genealogists, we should all be acquainted with the fact that all records contain mistakes, and that there are a lot of ways these occur before it gets to SSA. You ever have a death cert with what to you were clear and obvious errors that somehow made it into the DC? Because the reporter simply reported something in error? The SSDI is over 99.6% accurate but errors that make it into the process at the state level get into SSA’s files. Most mistakes, when pointed out to SSA, are fixed within a week and the correction goes out the following week. So the period of the mistake is often less than a month from occurrence, realization and correction. Part of the problem has been the fact places like Ancestry and other sites with an SSDI did not update their copies often, leaving the bad data online far longer than it should have been.

    Recent changes they have made address that, but responsible sites should have been doing the weekly updates, and thus eliminating the living very expeditiously. And if the IRS, who has a full copy of the complete SSDI does not use it and fraudsters steal the identities of deceased children, whose fault is that? Is that reason to shut down the SSDI or maybe the IRS is culpable for that set of thefts?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Good points, but remember: we MUST come across as the careful, moderate, responsible voices of reason that we really are here. The risk with rhetorical questions is that somebody with a chip on his shoulder already has an answer we won’t like.

  10. Mary Holland says:

    Is there any place that out of country people can protest? I’m Canadian [& met you on the TMG Cruise] and have used the SSDI to find more than one person who has been missing for more than 70 years. Because of the information there, I was able to show he was actually who we were looking for. I’ve tried with a couple of others but they have changed the rules as you well know.

    Thanks Judy for taking this on. I’m rooting for you all to help stop the changes even if I can’t help otherwise.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Hi, Mary! I was looking at those cruise photos recently! I wouldn’t hesitate to speak up even as a Canadian. You’re obviously researching Americans, and I don’t think it hurts to let the committee members know this issue isn’t just a little local matter that no-one cares about. Right now you can still access the SSDI at Ancestry (subscription only) and at FamilySearch. This fight is over whether even those stay accessible.

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  12. AHN says:

    It would be extremely helpful for someone to research the issue and prepare a good letter with good arguments against this bill that could then be publicized so that ALL of us concerned genealogists could use it to email/write our representatives and those on the committee. No sense having to recreate the wheel many times over and most of us simply don’t have the time to go through that entire process that quickly. Volume is more important here than many fewer really original commmunications.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      The RPAC letter is a good guide, but from my experience in Washington (years ago) I can tell you that canned letters get treated only slightly better than online petitions. And we need better than that if we’re going to stop this.

  13. Many thanks for all the concerned comments on this blog. I am away from my office but I can still make phone calls all day today to these Washington nuts.
    If we dont stand up and be heard it is no one’s fault but our own.

  14. Flora Stoneberg says:

    Excellent article! I am going to take action. I can’t tell you how many important clues the SSDI has given me. I think that if any of us have alternative ideas in how to address the problem of protecitng SS numbers, we should include them in our correspondence. In reading the Hearing Advisory on the Ways and Means webpage, it says,

    “Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.”

    Does this mean sealed letters? I just want to make sure that actually mailing a letter will reach the addressee. Perhaps the best thing to do is all three: email, fax, and posted mail.

  15. Judy Burns says:

    I intend to mail letters. To anyone else who intends to do the same:
    Rep. Sam Johnson 1211 Longworth Bldg, Washington, DC 20515
    All the following are Washington DC 20515:
    Xavier Becerra – 1226 Longworth Bldg
    Rick Berg 323 Cannon HOB
    Shelley Berkley 405 Cannon HOB
    Kevin Brady 301 Cannon HOB
    Lloyd Doggett 201 Cannon HOB
    Kenny Marchant 1110 Longworth HOB
    Aaron Schock 328 Cannon HOB
    Adrian Smith 503 Cannon HOB
    Pete Stark 239 Cannon HOB
    Bill Tiberi 106 Cannon HOB

    I’m an oil and gas landman and use the SSDI to find “lost” mineral owners all the time. Every day. It is essential to my work. And, of course, I am a genealogist also.

    Let’s get this done!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Great info, Judy, and thanks! I hope ALL the industries that use the SSDI are joining us. We’re not the only ones who need this information to stay public.

      • Judy Burns says:

        I just wrote 12 letters (included my own representative) and using Word, it took about an hour. Stamped and ready to go. If you think you don’t have time to do this, think again.

  16. Darlene Anderson says:

    I just wanted to say, thanks for this information. I have shared the information with the Indiana Genealogy Research Community ( Genealogy) and the Tennessee Genealogy Research Community ( on Facebook. I hope this will help generate much interest and others reaching out to save the SSDI!

  17. Hallie Garner says:

    Most of these Congressman on this committee do not have Facebook pages. I just checked.

  18. Keith Ling says:

    So let me get this straight. This would also prevent investigative journalists from determining if dead people were voting, right? I’d say that is pretty transparent, meaning it is clear this administration wants to prevent anyone from prosecuting voter fraud in this manner.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I’ve never in my life heard of voter fraud being investigated this way. I don’t use my Social Security number to vote… do you? This issue has NOTHING to do with voter fraud, and everything to do with a misunderstanding about identity theft by criminals.

  19. Suzanne Wood says:

    The SSDI is the only way to find an death date for ancestors to be able to find an obituary.
    The one thing I look at is the first 3 numbers of the social security number as it tells the region. The last four is what every bank etc asks for so that would not be a good idea to just put the last four. I have no reason to put anyone’s social security number in my genealogy records.
    Of all the intelligent people working for Social Security, why can’t they remove the column with the number when they update the list? Common Sense.
    Government and Common Sense, an oxymoron.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Suzanne, these uses are among the reasons why the index should not be closed off forever. And surely there are many solutions that don’t require that.

    • John Mac says:

      The SSN of the deceased is made available due to a Freedom of Information Act request, as financial institutions DO use the SSN in their processes. Their SSN is public data, whether or not you find a use for it. therefore it must, under law, be provided.

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        It must be provided as the law is NOW. If the law is changed, then access will be changed as well. That’s what we — and the financial institutions, and everyone else who uses and relies on this information — want to prevent.

        • John Mac says:

          My comment was directed to the responder’s idea that SSA could leave the full SSN out of what they publish, because, after all, she doesn’t use it nor see the need for it. My response was to point out that under FOIA, the full SSN is releasable. Period. It’s the law. People that put forward an argument “why doesn’t SSA not include the SSN, or only part of it, or just give the month and year of birth” or whatever ignore the reality that FOIA requires the release of the data that is being released. Releasing less, or only giving it to certain people or groups is not allowed. It is (currently, for the moment) PUBLIC data.

          To change that fact either FOIA exemptions would need to be changed to exempt certain data about the dead from being available via FOIA or legislation that pulls death data from FOIA itself (such as the Johnson legislation) could be passed. Either approach would reduce the availablity of this kind of data from the public while still allowing it to be offered to organizations or entities that can demonstrate that they need it for a business function.

          Once the data stops being public, it wil likely be held for only “approved” uses. Since most of the “harm” has been “identity theft”, it is unlikely that access that resembles anything like we have now will be approved due to the fears of ID theft and misuse.

          Rep Johnson has been pretty plain about his motives. We somehow have to get him to see the picture in a larger context.

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  21. Paula J. Malone says:

    I have posted the information on facebook. Sent out Many, Many emails to friends, family and Genealogists. This is important – trying to get the word out to all!

    Thank you for your information….

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for joining in, Paula. Remember: this is only the first battle in this fight. So stay on top of the issues here!

  22. Arthur Filete says:

    The SSDI is a very valuable tool for all Genealogists Do not change the current program!!!

  23. Mary Colville Griffith says:

    Don’t prevent genealogists access to records of those who came before us.

    Mary Colville Griffith

  24. Mary Colville Griffith says:

    Please don’t prevent genealogists, historians, from gaining access to vidal records to preserve roots.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Mary, you’re preaching to the choir here. Telling other genealogists doesn’t get the job done in convincing the Congressional people!

  25. David French says:

    Hi Judy,

    Thank you so much taking the lead on this. I would think Estate attorneys would be against this as it will greatly limit their access to this valuable resource. Where does the American Bar Association stand on this issue?

    All the Best,

    David French

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I haven’t seen anything indicating the ABA has taken a position, but they’d be wonderful allies in this fight. And we’ll need ‘em!

  26. Jill Groce says:

    I sent this email to Chris Van Hollen (MD-8), my Congressman, a few minutes ago.

    The Rockville office suggested I contact you [a legislative aide] concerning H.R. 3475, the ‘Keeping IDs Safe Act of 2011,’ due for hearings Thursday.

    The Social Security Death Index is a primary source of information for genealogists and family historians. None of us have been invited to speak at the hearings, and this is a terrible omission.

    The Social Security Death Index is a primary source of information for genealogists and family historians. None of us have been invited to speak at the hearings, and this is a terrible omission.

    Persons searching for family members have a thousand and one reasons for consulting the SSDI, all legitimate and often poignant. I obtained information about my own immediate family from it.

    Legal matters, adoption inquiries, inheritances, crucial medical history, and reuniting with long-lost relatives are just a few of the situations that call for the information in the Social Security Death Index.

    We need to keep the SSDI public. This is one more case where we need to use a scalpel instead of a machete to cut down on abuses. Surely we can find a way to keep this information available to the people who need it for matters of love, law, and family.

  27. Frances Fern Johnson says:

    Hi I thought this brought up some interesting concerns about identities being stolen. So I thought I would check something out on the SSDI. My son died in 1978 as an infant. At that time you applied for the SS # when you were still in the hospital and the hospital forwarded info to the SS office. Apparently SS has not been notified that my son is dead as his info is not on the SSDI. Who notifies SS about the death of children? Is this the job of the parents who are in shock and mourning? It is no wonder that people steal the identity of children who have passed. All they have to do is get an obit which list date of birth and parents names go to health dept and get a birth certificate then send to SS a request for a new SS card. ID stolen and no way to prove that the said child was dead when they received the request. So how can we fix the reporting of deaths to SS? Should funeral homes request SS #’s when preparing children for burial and filling out death certificates? I think the answer lies elsewhere in how to prevent identity theft than to shut down the SSDI which I use as a geneologist all the time to help find obits and dates of birth or just to verify if the person I was following in records is correct. Thank you very much in letting us know what our lawmakers are trying to do with records that should be and should remain open records.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      First off, it’s not so easy to get a birth certificate! Trust me on this: I can’t even get DEATH certificates for my close relatives. But the legal responsibility to notify Social Security of a death rests with the family (though many funeral homes will do this for you). See the link here to the Social Security’s website on this.

    • John Mac says:

      Section 205 (r) of the Social Security Act authorizes SSA to get death data. But having it and being able to share it are different concepts. While SSA aims to be notified about all deaths that occur (to administer the SSA system), not all reported deaths can be made public. SSA is required to respect state laws on disclosure, so if a state tells SSA that it cannot share the death data it provides to SSA, then that is NOT published in the death master file. Many of you are aware of the changes that took place in November. It is specifically a reassessment of that requirement on redisclosure and how it is applied that caused SSA in November to restrict data that has been previously been public. The FOIA provisions do not trump the states ability to tell SSA not to share. The basic rationale for states to do that is to protect the fee system that generates income with their vital statistics office.

      Death reports come to SSA in a variety of ways, but in 1978, the primary method was 1) funeral homes directly reporting and 2) state BVS offices reporting (sometimes up to a year later). Currently, most states report electronically within 10 days and funeral homes make far less reports. So indeed SSA may itself know all about the death of your son, but depending on the state law in effect at the time, cannot share that with the public.

      Or because the death occurred for an infant prior to the SSN being issued, it is possible that the two events were never connected or linked. If the death cert does not have an SSN on it, then it likely that the death was not annotated onto SSA’s SSN master files.

      However, all states have regulations that require infant deaths in particular to annotate the BC to indicate that a death occurred to prevent identity theft. Also, most states comply with CDC requirements to annotate in-state death certs with in-state birth certs as well. Again, protecting the data of the deceased even if not listed in the death master file.

  28. Trish Reuter says:

    Just followed the link to the online guide. Near the end, it gives addresses for the committee members but states in big red letters that Congressional mail is delayed 7-10 days for security reasons. So FAX FAX FAX!!!!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Trish, there IS time on this. The committee hearing record does NOT close until the 16th of February. So mail has plenty of time to get there.

  29. Mona R. Dillon says:

    Sometimes I stand in amazement of causes that our leaders in Washington, DC take on. I have been using the SSDI for 20 years in doing research on my ancestors, and it has been a most valuable tool. I have learned a lot, chances are i would not have gotten the information that i got if i had not had access to the SSDI. Death records and the ability to locate them is much harder than linking to the SSDI. It would be my request to just leave them alone, I am sure there are other ways that you could monitor the SSDI and inhibit those persons that steal identities.

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  31. dennise says:

    My son was trying for a financial ad before 24 years of age so I had to send in information as his mother. some how I had to contact the ss office and verify something. Come to find out the cod on the card also says how old you are to be. His card said he was 79 years old. His card number was also one of four of the same number. I ask how that is when you do your taxes with that number. I was told that the IRS is the only ones, because of the other information that comes on the taxes, that can tell the difference between the individuals. So an a b c d are used to separate the files when this gets to the government offices. I don’t know if the is so but if it is is anyone really aware of the truth in issuing of the cards. My sister and I got ours in Mississippi when we lived there for 6 months, we were from California and any one looking for gen. stuff would have a hard time thinking this was wright unless they knew of the move. So I hope what is done that this will be straighten out for good with a disclaimer for people looking up things on the sit after the what ever happens. Maybe there should be the year of 2012 put before the number and start all over and have better control on the new way the numbers get given out. Thank you for your effort on this issue.

  32. Jean Larson says:

    Here are the co-sponsors of the bill. They need to be notified about our concerns too. The date is when they signed on to be a sponsor. Unless you live in their district the congressional computer system won’t let you send an email to them but a letter should go to them. I am also including the address to the bill on the web site. you can track the status of the bill there.|/home/LegislativeData.php?n=BSS;c=112|

    Rep Berg, Rick [ND] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Brady, Kevin [TX-8] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Herger, Wally [CA-2] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Jenkins, Lynn [KS-2] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Marchant, Kenny [TX-24] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Schock, Aaron [IL-18] – 11/18/2011
    Rep Tiberi, Patrick J. [OH-12] – 11/18/2011

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Good points, Jean. And remember: we all need to join in the RPAC ID theft petition as soon as it goes live.

  33. William Regan says:

    It is essential that SSDI be available for those who are using it to provide information about relatives and family. As a matter of principle government information should be available for the public to have easily. Genealogy is a pursuit difficult enough without any limitations. Keep SSDI open.

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  35. Catharine Rhoads says:

    The SSDI is invaluable to genealogists. Please make it available us for research purposes. We can register or whatever we have to do to use it. I’m sure there are others who use it for illegal purposes,but genealogists just use it for researching family.

  36. Mary Ellen Wexler says:

    I’m afraid that anyone who wishes to commit fraud, will find a way. Let’s not penalize those who are using the SSDI legitimately. Leave the SSDI open and accessible, please.

  37. Carolyn Keeton says:

    Please don’t stop us from using SSDI as I use it a lot for my family research
    thank you

  38. Debra Eddy says:

    How about transferring the records of deceased individuals to the National Archives when they’re not being used by Social Security anymore?

    Wouldn’t that be a better solution than banning us from that valuable research source?

  39. John says:

    White House 2014 Budget online at

    pages 151, 153

    Reduction of Identity Theft by Reforming the
    Death Master File.—The Budget proposes to amend the
    Social Security Act to limit access to the “Death Master
    File” to prevent this information from being used to file
    fraudulent claims for benefits or tax refunds. This proposal
    provides that the Commissioner of Social Security
    may use, or provide for the use of, records of deceased individuals,
    subject to such safeguards as the Commissioner
    determines are necessary or appropriate to protect the
    information from unauthorized use or disclosure, for the
    purpose of public health or safety, law enforcement, tax
    administration, health oversight, debt collection, payment
    certification, disbursement of payments, and for the
    prevention, identification or recoupment of improper payments.
    This proposal would result in PAYGO savings of
    $1.3 billion over ten years.

    And page 206

    Restrict access to the Death Master File (DMF).—
    The DMF, which is publicly available and updated weekly
    by the Social Security Administration (SSA), contains the
    full name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth,
    date of death, and the county, state, and zip code of the
    last address on record for decedents. Although some
    DMF users need immediate access to the DMF for fraud
    prevention purposes, others are using the DMF for illegitimate
    purposes, including identity thieves who use
    the DMF to steal the names and SSNs of recent decedents,
    which information identity thieves then use to file
    fraudulent tax returns. The Administration is proposing
    to restrict immediate access to the DMF to those users
    who legitimately need the information for fraud prevention
    purposes and to delay the release of the DMF to all
    other users. This proposal would reduce opportunities for
    identity theft and restrict information sources used to file
    fraudulent tax returns. The proposal would be effective
    upon enactment.

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