This morning (2 February 2012) the U. S. House of Representatives, Ways and Means Subcommittee is holding a hearing concerning the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (commonly called the “Social Security Death Index”). A few cases of identity theft and fraud have caused the U. S. Congress to favor the closing of this valuable resource. Several other blogs have discussed this issue, and I would invite readers to read these other blogs:
- Amy Johnson Crow, “Why Closing the SSDI is a Bad Idea,” Amy Johnson Crow blog, posted 25 November 2011 (http://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/blog : accessed 2 February 2012).
- Kimberly Powell, “Social Security Administration Removing Names from Public Death Master File (aka SSDI),” About.com Genealogy blog, posted 12 December 2011 (http://genealogy.about.com : accessed 2 February 2012).
- Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, “Are We Going to Lose the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?,” Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak’s Roots World blog, posted 13 December 2011 (http://megansmolenyak.posterous.com : accessed 2 February 2012).
- Judy G. Russell, “SSDI Call to Action,” The Legal Genealogist blog, posted 29 January 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com : accessed 2 February 2012).
- Fred Moss, “SSDI — House Ways & Means Committee Hearing 2 February 2012–Updated,” Federation of Genealogical Societies Records Preservation and Access Committee blog, posted 30 January 2012 (http://www.fgs.org/rpac : accessed 2 February 2012).
- Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogists (CAFG), “Save SSDI,” CAFG blog, posted 1 February 2012 (http://www.forensicgenealogists.org/CAFG-Forensic-Genealogy-Blog.html : accessed 2 February 2012).
I would like to take this time to respond briefly to the issue at large as well as the specific written testimony that has now been posted on the Ways and Means Committee website.
In general, I would like to make a comparison to what the U. S. Congress is attempting to do. Since the mid-19th century, there have been documented cases of identity theft and fraud by those who would go to cemeteries and copy information from headstones. Closing the Death Master File (“SSDI”) is akin to making cemeteries restricted ground, inaccessible to the general public. Except that there are far fewer documented cases of fraud occasioned by the Death Master File than by headstones.
I would like to invite my readers to take the time to read the written testimony submitted by those invited to address the committee:
- The Honorable Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner, Social Security Administration
- Jonathan Agin, Arlington, Virginia
- Stuart K. Pratt, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Data Industry Association
- John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications & Fraud, National Consumers League
- The Honorable Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General, Social Security Administration
- Dr. Patricia Potrzebowski, Executive Director, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, Silver Spring, Maryland
I will respond to this testimony directly in the coming days, in separate blog posts.