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How many deaths before the SSDI gets updated again?
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MGC took on several responsibilities at the 2013 New England Regional Genealogical Conference last week in Manchester, New Hampshire. We ran a discussion on Open Records, we sponsored a luncheon, we put on a special interest group, and we had a booth in the exhibit hall. Records Access Panel We had looked forward to having Thomas MacEntee as our panel discussion moderator. From Chicago, Thomas led a discussion on records access at an annual meeting of the Association of Professional Genealogists. We adopted his format which included skits to make it more interesting for the audience. Alas, there were torrential rains in Chicago and the flooding there together with airline computer problems nixed his attendance at NERGC completely. With Thomas's inspired format, we began to panic. Micheal Leclerc, Genealogist and blogger at Mocavo.com, came to our rescue. He was willing to take on the improvisation as well as moderate a discussion...
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MGC's Access to Records for Genealogists -- 3:15-4:15 pm, in the Stark Room. It's not just your average panel discussion! Today's MGC Open Records Access discussion will include some fun as well. The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is sponsoring "Access to Records for Genealogists" from 3:15 to 4:15 in the Stark room. You don't want to miss this one. Thomas MacEntee will be our emcee and moderator. After a brief panel discussion about issues, we will move into an improvisational skit. Come get a few laughs while you learn about the sense and complete nonsense of SSDI closure to prevent tax fraud. Thomas MacEntee, Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt, Richard McCoy (vital records registrar of Vermont), Sharon E Sergeant and Barbara Mathews will acting the parts of a U.S. Congressional staff person, a newspaper reporter, a police detective, a victim of identity theft, and a genealogy society leader. Who gets which role????? Come and...
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Multiple state governments
  In the U.S., there are 57 varieties of vital statistics: the fifty states, five territories, Washington, DC, and New York City keep vital statistics in their own systems. The federal government requires reporting to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and to the Social Security Administration, to name just two. To do this, all 57 entities and the federal government must agree on how to transmit information. There are two ways in which these groups work together. The 57 recording entities are involved in the non-governmental National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS). From its side, DHHS has evolved the Model Act and Regulations, a set of suggestions about how individual states can enact law and develop regulations about how to implement that law. The states are not required to implement the Model Act and...
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Fraud against United States government agencies is rampant. It is impossible to obtain an exact figure, because not all agencies are measuring the extent to which they are losing money, but estimates of over $100 billion/year in improper payments are common.  We are all aware of and horrified by this. It's unfair, unscrupulous, and worsening our already faltering economy. And we agree that IT MUST STOP. Yet all too often these days it seems that efforts to stop this trend are led by individual legislators who propose bills of only small scope. When we see a congressman propose a bill, it seems to be either because he knows of the problem and wants to fix it, or has a constituent who was the indirect victim of such a fraud. It seems easy enough to propose, is a hot-button issue and seems like a great way to attract votes. But most of...
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USHouse in session gov doc

The U.S. House of Representatives in session, www.house.gov.

Every indication so far is that this year will again see efforts to close the SSDI in two ways: first by legislation to close it for three years to all but fraud investigators; second by legislation to make the Freedom of Information Act inapplicable to the Social Security Administration (it was by FOIA that the SSDI was opened two decades ago). Either method would work against genealogists.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Sam Johnson (R TX 3) was reappointed chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The announcement can be read at http://samjohnson.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=316913.

At this time, at least one bill has been filed using text that would close the SSDI for two to three years. Rep. Richard Nugent (R FL 11) filed this bill, known as H.R.295. You can use the Library of Congress THOMAS portal to find the bill’s text and to track its passage at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas. Select “bill number” and type in HR295. The resulting page will provide many access points: to the bill text, to the current committee assignments, etc.

Rep. Mike Capuano (D MA 7) is planning to submit a similar bill. His office has been approached by immigration and tax people in government to submit a bill covering their issues. We were able to contact his Issues Director Kate Auspitz in order to pass on information showing that the core issue is inter-agency communication rather than access to the social security numbers of dead people. We made a case for genealogical access during the critical three-year waiting period for compassionate reasons.

While Congressman Capuano sees merit in our arguments, we will need to make those arguments again at the committee hearings in order to have change happen. We explained that such testimony had been purposefully cut off last year. His office pointed out that he is in the political minority in the House and not able to force a committee chair to permit our testimony. We need to keep our community ready to submit testimony and to be able to articulate the issues when the time comes. So how do we learn that?

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