[USA] Social Security Death Index No Longer Contains Protected State Death Records

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Most genealogists doing US research rely on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The death master file (DMF) is developed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
(http://www.ntis.gov/products/ssa-dmf.aspx), which has been notified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of an important change in the Death Master File data. NTIS, a cost-recovery government agency, disseminates the DMF data on behalf of SSA. As stated on their website, use of the SSDI actually "prevents" identity theft.

"Protected" state records, are to the best of our current information, those states that have waiting periods to access death records. In other words, if a state has a waiting period for public access to death records, such as 25, 50, 75, 100 or more years, they are considered "protected".

SSA receives death information from sources in addition to states supplying death records,such as funeral homes, financial institutions, family and others. Only the information provided by protected state death records are being removed and future information from protected state death records will not be added.

Effective November 1, 2011 the DMF data that NTIS receives from SSA will no longer contain protected state death records. The historical Public DMF contains 89 million records. SSA will remove approximately 4.2 million records from this file and add about 1 million fewer records annually. (http://www.ntis.gov/pdf/import-change-dmf.pdf).

The rationale as stated by SSA is the following:Section 205(r) of the Act prohibits SSA from disclosing state death records SSA receives through its contracts with the states, except in limited circumstances.
(Section 205r link - http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title02/0205.htm)

Per the article noted at the end of this paragraph, Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas (R)called for a hearing on how a dead child's SSN was stolen which was the impetus for the withdrawal of many protected state death records.

As soon as we know details about such a hearing details will be posted.

Congressman Johnson chairs the very influential House Ways and Means Committee on Social Security. It oversees the Social Security Administration. Chairman Johnson has already held a field hearing in Texas, on child identity theft and Social Security in September http://waysandmeans.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=257211

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
IAJGS Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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