Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Commentary on Social Security Death Index Restrictions

Since the finding yesterday that the Social Security Death Index (SSDI, the public version of the Death Master File (DMF)) had been removed from the free Rootsweb website, there have been a number of articles about the issue by notable genealogists that shed some light, and some commentary, on the issue.  These include:

Amy Johnson Crow wrote Why Closing the SSDI is a Bad Idea on 25 November.  She refers to the “Keeping IDs Safe Act of 2011″ (aka KIDS Act), introduced but not yet passed in the U.S. Congress. 

*  Kimberly Powell on the About: Genealogy blog wrote Social Security Administration Removing Names from Public Death Master File (aka SSDI) on 12 December.  She refers to Amy's post and to Social Security's FAQ on Online availability of SSA's Death Master File.

*  Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak wrote Are We Going to Lose the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)? on her blog today  which summarized some of the identity theft reports and referenced a Presidential Memorandum for Managing Government Records. 

*  Dick Eastman wrote Genealogists are Losing Access to SSDI, Mostly Due to Misinformation and linked to several identity theft reports. 

Megan and Dick noted that the problem is that the government agencies, credit organizations and banks that should be utilizing the Death Master File to screen income tax returns and other identity-critical information are not using the tool provided to them by the SSDI/DMF. 

They also identify the proactive response that genealogists can take to influence their congressional representatives and senators - and point out the real problem in a polite, informational letter or telephone call. 

Otherwise, we're going to lose the Social Security Death Index as a useful genealogical resource if we don't do something soon.  We will still be able to order information from the Social Security Administration, but the process will be much more difficult to execute.  The Social Security Application can be ordered using the form at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-711.pdf

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