I knew that the rules had changed, and some of the methods to obtain the application had changed. Here's what I found today while trying to find online information and forms.
FamilySearch has a Wiki page describing Social Security applications and the genealogical information that might be obtained from them. See U.S. Social Security Records for Genealogists. The page says:
The "Online Request for Deceased Individual's Social Security Record" looks like this (two screens):
This is probably the easiest way to obtain the application, but it requires a credit card number.
The mail-in form can be downloaded at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-711.pdf. You then write a check or obtain a money order and send it in to the mailing address.
If the researcher is looking for all of the information on the application, they need to order the photocopy of the original Application for Social Security Card, and not the computer abstract of information. Knowing the Social Security number of the deceased saves the requester $2.
Some data may be restricted. The website says:
"We use the '120 year rule' when disclosing information from our records for extremely aged persons when no date of death exists. We normally do not assume that an individual is deceased without proof of death (e.g., death certificate, obituary, newspaper article, or police report).
"Also, under our current policy, we do not release the parents' names unless they are proven deceased, have a birth date more than 120 years ago, or the number holder on the SS-5 is at least 100 years of age."
Rootsweb used to provide a Freedom of Information Access letter for you, but since they took the Social Security Death Index down several years ago, that letter format is no longer available. I thought that Ancestry.com had a similar letter, but when I searched, the link for "Request copy of original application" goes to a FAQ page on the Social Security Administration site that doesn't find a match for "obtain social security application." A search for "ss-5 application" turned up a FAQ for "Can you provide a copy of a deceased person’s Social Security number for genealogical research?" That leads you to the forms above.
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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver