Social Security Administration Extends FOIA Restriction to 100 Years

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

A recent blog posting by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's includes a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding obtaining Social Security Applications (SSA-5). The letter states the Administration has extended the restriction to 100 years from date of birth of the applicant, therefore, one would only be able to obtain records in an unaltered state (includes parents names) for those born prior to 1912.

After reading Megan’s posting it was found on the SSA website that this went into effect on July 27, 2011 see: scroll down to “I” under “extreme age requirements": where it states: “Under this policy, we assume that a person is alive unless their birth date exceeds 120 years or we have proof of the person’s death... We normally do not assume that an individual is deceased without proof of death (e.g., death certificate, obituary, newspaper article, or police report)….However, for extreme age cases we can release an SS-5, in its entirety, including the parents’ names of the number holder (NH), in response to a request in the following instances:
• the NH’s birth date exceeds 100 years and we have proof of the NH’s death; or
• the NH’s birth date exceeds 120 years and no proof of death exists.”

To our knowledge there was no public comment period for this new Administration determination.

This policy is to "protect" the parents’ names of the SSA-5 applicant. If the person who is applying for the Social Security Administration application can prove the applicant is deceased, and their birth date exceeds 100 years, they will be able to order the SS-5 without redaction of that information.

To read Megan's blog, and view the letter to her from the Social Security Administration go to: There is no rationale included with the letter, other than it is policy, signed by the acting executive director of privacy and disclosure. The letter's author stated this was a final decision, but can be reviewed by a district federal court or mediation with the office of Government Information Services.

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

1 comment:

  1. I have sent the following request to the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives.


    I understand that the Social Security Administration recently changed its policy on the release of records related to the SS-5. See

    As one commenter noted, “What if the person I am researching has parents who did not immigrate and were then killed in the Holocaust? How am I supposed to go find their death certificates, of which none usually exist, to prove to the SSA that I can request their surviving adult child’s SS-5?”

    Especially where the adult child is nearing 100 years old (and deceased), the SSA policy makes no sense. How many parents of such people would still be alive at age 120 or 130?

    Please review this SSA policy. It makes no sense, and causes needless heartache to Holocaust survivors and their families.

    Thank you.


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