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New Legislation Would Close the SSDI for 2 Years

Posted by on in Legislation Federal
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Blog Posting from Sharon Sergeant, member of the Civil Records Committee:

It might be the dog days of summer, and the last few months of the current two-year Congressional session, but we are still seeing new legislation being introduced. The latest, sponsored by Rep. Richard Nugent of Florida, condenses previous bills that included closure of the Social Security Death Index (Death Master File or DMF) into a new bill, H.R. 6205. It was introduced on July 26th and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The full text of the new bill can be found at or  The head of the Senate committee dealing with this issue also filed a new bill, S. 3432, which you can read at

These bills have the least restrictive wording on closure of the Death Master File. The DMF (which genealogists know as the SSDI) would be closed for two years. During those two years, according to the House bill's Section 7 (a) [Senate Section 9 (a)], some people can be certified to see the information. Section 7 (b) states that, “A person shall not be certified…unless the Secretary [of the Social Security Administration] determines that a person has a legitimate fraud prevention interest...” Section 7 (c) provides a fine of $1,000 if a certified person uses DMF information for any reason other than to prevent fraud. If that person discloses information about many deaths, the fine can go no higher than $50,000 per year.

The bad news about HR6205 is the idea that the DMF/SSDI needs to be closed to anyone other than those with a certified need. Without regard to garden variety genealogists - certifying medical researchers, social workers, historians, sociologists, employers, heir/unclaimed property/unclaimed body/soldier repatriation/provenance researchers, insurance and pension plan companies, credit bureaus, financial institutions, debtor searchers, etc., would be a bureaucratic nightmare.

The good news about HR6205 is that there is at least a beginning to examine the electronic filing process by which you can pick a social security number out of the air, jury rig the numbers and have a refund transferred to an anonymous prepaid card — and many other schemes well documented in other press articles — in Florida in particular.

Photo credit: Capitol Architect, U.S. Government,

Updated to include Senate bill S. 34332.

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Barbara serves as the Federal Records Director. She is a Board-certified genealogist who works for the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America as a Verifying Genealogist and for the Welles Family Association as a Genealogist. Her volunteer service includes a stint as President of MGC. She holds a master’s degree in the management of non-profits from the Florence Heller School at Brandeis University. You can read her own blog, The Demanding Genealogist, at


  • Guest
    Alvie L. Davidson CG Monday, 06 August 2012

    Is all this mumbo-jumbo going to keep out hackers?

  • Barbara Mathews
    Barbara Mathews Monday, 06 August 2012

    Our next step is given at the end of our next blog posting on the extent of the tax fraud. It is time for those personally affected to ask their own reps and senators to speak on their behalf.

  • Barbara Mathews
    Barbara Mathews Monday, 06 August 2012 already modified the file that we use to eliminate those numbers voluntarily. Unfortunately, with the date and location of birth, social security numbers prior to July of last year can be mathematically calculated. It is unclear from the beginning to what limited extent the SSDI was used for this fraud. Many of these numbers are gained by buying them from people working at places where they are used, such as hospitals. Medicare cards, for example, use them.

    Also, social security numbers are a part of identifying the correct John Smith in some types of investigative work. Some investigators will need the SS-5 to determine if the record applies to the person they are researching. It takes a lot of work to find next-of-kin in some DOD cases.

    For just finding more data on your own family members, the loss of the social security number is probably fine. Your point is well taken.

  • Guest
    Debra Newton-Carter Monday, 06 August 2012

    Since it's the information linked to the name which genealogists search for, the Social Security Number need not be attached if they are that concerned with fraud. It seems to me that they could block the SS# and release the vital information. I think you're correct in your estimation of the extent of bureaucratic red tape that would be created by demanding searchers to be certified. Do you know what is being done, or what can be done by genealogical societies to advocate for a modified disclosure?

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Guest Friday, 09 October 2015