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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records
The U.S. House of Representatives in session, www.house.gov.
Every indication so far is that this year will again see efforts to close the SSDI in two ways: first by legislation to close it for three years to all but fraud investigators; second by legislation to make the Freedom of Information Act inapplicable to the Social Security Administration (it was by FOIA that the SSDI was opened two decades ago). Either method would work against genealogists.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Sam Johnson (R TX 3) was reappointed chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The announcement can be read at http://samjohnson.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=316913.
At this time, at least one bill has been filed using text that would close the SSDI for two to three years. Rep. Richard Nugent (R FL 11) filed this bill, known as H.R.295. You can use the Library of Congress THOMAS portal to find the bill’s text and to track its passage at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas. Select “bill number” and type in HR295. The resulting page will provide many access points: to the bill text, to the current committee assignments, etc.
Rep. Mike Capuano (D MA 7) is planning to submit a similar bill. His office has been approached by immigration and tax people in government to submit a bill covering their issues. We were able to contact his Issues Director Kate Auspitz in order to pass on information showing that the core issue is inter-agency communication rather than access to the social security numbers of dead people. We made a case for genealogical access during the critical three-year waiting period for compassionate reasons.
While Congressman Capuano sees merit in our arguments, we will need to make those arguments again at the committee hearings in order to have change happen. We explained that such testimony had been purposefully cut off last year. His office pointed out that he is in the political minority in the House and not able to force a committee chair to permit our testimony. We need to keep our community ready to submit testimony and to be able to articulate the issues when the time comes. So how do we learn that?
2 April 2012
Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Editorial and Document Section
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200
To: US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chair: US Senate Finance Committee, Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Growth
From: Massachusetts Genealogical Council, Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt, CGSM, President
Re: Testimony for hearing on "Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2: Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions," regarding the Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act (S.1534), held Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 10:00 AM, 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) is an umbrella organization representing more than 36,000 members of genealogical and historical societies who utilize current and historical records to determine kinship. Whether residents of the Commonwealth or descendants of early Massachusetts settlers now living in all fifty states, we wish the Social Security Death Master File (DMF) to remain un-redacted and accessible to the public.
Senate Bill 1534 goes a long way in curbing tax fraud by correcting some of the more egregious problems within the IRS and in law enforcement practices, particularly in Florida, where the bulk of the abuse takes place. The one measure that will hinder rather than help this effort is removal of access to the Death Master File.
While we are in agreement that there are significant problems within the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and local law enforcement, we need to ensure that legislation proposed to rectify this problem will not have dangerous, if unintended, consequences.
As a tool for research in the genealogical field, the Death Master File is used to determine kinship in myriad ways, just a few of which follow.