Sunday, January 29, 2012

(USA) Genealogists Not Invited To Testify on SSDI at House Ways and Means Subcommittee Hearing

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

IAJGS as one of the 3 voting members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) http://www.fgs.org/rpac/index.phphas has been coordinating with the other managing members, FGS and NGS and the RPAC chairman, David Rencher, chief genealogist of FamilySearch (see website for a listing of all the genealogical organizations that are participating on RPAC) in addressing the genealogical community's deep concerns over the recent actions to limit or prevent access to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) [the commercial version of the Death Master File, produced by the Social Security Administration]. Four bills have been introduced in Congress (HR 3475, S1534, HR 3482, HR 3215) that if enacted would limit access or totally deny access to the SSDI due to concerns that access to the SSDI has lead to identity theft by identity thieves, obtaining Social Security Numbers of deceased children and applying for tax refunds for these non related children.

For the past several months, IAJGS and others from RPAC, have been in discussions with the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee staff on the genealogical community's needs for access to SSDI including the Social Security Numbers [SSN], including providing them with suggested legislative language addressing the concerns of using deceased
children's SSN's while still permitting legitimate users --including genealogists--access to the SSDI . Several very prominent genealogists were lined up to testify on the hope that the genealogical community would be an invited testifier--even with only one representative. We were advised the upcoming hearing would not be specific to any of the current bills in
Congress but rather to address the issues and what legislation should include.

IAJGS was the coordinator and the lead spokesperson with the Subcommittee staff. As such IAJGS was advised by the Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee staff on January 26 that due to their very limited time and the issues growing more complex, they decided not to go with a genealogist witness. They commented that we may submit testimony for the record. The decision as to whom may be a presenter at a hearing is made by the Subcommittee chairperson, in coordination with the ranking subcommittee member and with subcommittee staff. The decision is not appealable. The hearing information is available on the House Ways and Means Committee website--February 2 at 9:00 AM.
http://tinyurl.com/7mp5op8

original url:
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=276835

Please read the hearing advisory at: http://tinyurl.com/7xojjc3

original url:
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=276834

For information on submitting a statement see:
http://tinyurl.com/6lu7dw7

original url:
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/committeesubmissions/

Statements may be submitted through February 16- two weeks following the hearing. How and where are located in the link immediately above.

You will be able to watch the hearing live from the convenience of where ever your computer is-- go to: http://tinyurl.com/6uq9pd7 full url:
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/?EventTypeID=149&CatagoryID=4772
and either click on the hearing or scroll down to the bottom right of the screen where it says committee videos (http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2) and we should see it live. I have been told it will also be archived so one can watch it any time.

To learn who is on the Subcommittee: Go to the Committee website: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/About/Members.htm
The people who serve on the full Ways and Means Committee are listed first and scroll down to the Subcommittee on Social Security-- Each of the members own websites may be accessed by clicking on their names under the full committee.

This subcommittee hearing is to hear what should be in legislation. The IAJGS and RPAC have provided staff with legislative language and concepts, held several conference calls and had numerous e-mails and phone calls with the staff...they received our input-- if they do anything with it we will only know when the new bill is proposed. Therefore, when/if a new bill is introduced it will be heard in both the House and Senate- and an opportunity exists for more input at those times.

For those who are interested in ideas on this issue go to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) website http://www.fgs.org/rpac/index.php where there is a talking points paper.

Needless to say IAJGS and RPAC are very disappointed that the genealogical community was not invited to be a presenter at the February 2 hearing. IAJGS is planning to submit a statement. As more information is made available it will be posted to this forum.

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

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