First Review of the New Limited Access Death Master File

With thanks to Dee Dee King, the first genealogist I know of to be Certified for access to the new Limited Access Death Master File (DMF):

“Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy has published a special edition of its newsletter Forensic Genealogy News.  This edition contains an article “Demystifying the DMF.”  This addresses a brief history of the Death Master File, the recent controversy surrounding it, my experience in applying to be certified for the new Limited Access Death Master File, and what I discovered once access was gained and I actually started using the new DMF.

“Some myths have been debunked and new information about the DMF is discussed that is not currently available elsewhere.  Please feel free to share the link to the newsletter with others in the genealogical community.  The article is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without advance permission.  A source citation is included for those who wish to quote the article.

“Go to the Resources page
http://www.forensicgenealogists.org/Resources.html
and click the link for Vol 4 #3 Special DMF Edition.”

 

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RPAC & NAPHSIS at NGS Conference

National Genealogical Society Luncheon

Patricia W. Potrzebowski                                                                     

Patricia W. Potrzebowski

Vital Statistics Registrars and Genealogists: 

We Need to Talk!

 

S431, Saturday, 10 May 2014, at 12:15 p.m.

Patricia W. Potrzebowski, PhD, Executive Director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information, will be the featured speaker at the National Genealogical Society luncheon. The title of her talk is “Vital Statistics Registrars and Genealogists: We Need to Talk!” NGS has selected this topic to emphasis the importance of access to vital records for genealogists. Ms. Potrzeboski’s talk will cover the following key points:

• What do state registrars of vital records and genealogists have in common?

• How can state registrars and genealogists work together more effectively to achieve mutual goals?

• Why privacy, confidentiality, and security of vital records matter to all of us.

Patricia W. Potrzebowski, Ph.D. has been the Executive Director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems since January, 2011.  Information about NAPHSIS can be found at http://www.naphsis.org.

Previously, Trish served as the Director, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, where she worked for more than 35 years.

While there, Trish established the first designated State Center for Health Statistics in the nation, implemented an award winning statewide cancer incidence registry and immunization registry, and directed the state’s vital statistics system.  In 2001 she launched the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program with funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to provide clinical, biomedical, and health services research grants each year to universities, hospitals, and other research organizations located in Pennsylvania.

Trish earned her Ph.D. in human genetics from the Department of Biostatistics of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. She is a former President of NAPHSIS and received the Halbert L. Dunn Award in 1991 for her contributions to national and state health statistics systems.  Trish chaired the Panel to Evaluate the U.S. Standard Certificates that created the 2003 revised certificates, and was also a member of the 2011 Model Law Revision Work Group.

Luncheon tickets can be purchased for $32.00 at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/event-registration/ through 22 April 2014. Register now before the luncheon sells out.

Also mark your conference schedule to attend the Records Preservation and Access Committee session, Thursday, 8 May 2014, 4:00 p.m., “RPAC: Access to Vital Records is Under Attack! How Can You Help?”

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Connecticut — New Threat to Genealogists: Senate Bill 414 — Updated

With thanks to Dr. Robert L. Rafford, RPAC State Liaison for Connecticut:

SB414-Year2014_002 (2)

“Please forward this e-mail on to any genealogical or historical group or individual who might be affected by this legislation:

 

Senate Bill 414 poses an immediate threat to genealogists and comes before the Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) tomorrow, Friday, March 14, at 10:30 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. I urge everyone to join me there at the hearing and, if you can, present testimony in person. If you cannot be there, you can still submit testimony which will become a part of the permanent record by sending your testimony to PHC.Testimony@cga.ct.gov. It need not be fancy – just let all members know that this is an outrageous assault on the rights of American citizens known as genealogists. Please also contact the members of the Public Health Committee; the membership list can be found at http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=PH. Please also contact your local legislators. Tell them that you want them not to give a pass to this shocking and probably illegal proposal.

 

Here are the facts:
SB 414 is called AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH’S RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING GENEALOGISTS’ ACCESS TO VITAL RECORDS.

 

The current statute states that genealogists have access to “all vital records in the custody of any registrar of vital statistics, including certificates, ledgers, record books, card files, indexes and database printouts,  “during all normal business hours.” The proposed legislation would delete “during all normal business hours” and would add this sentence:

 

A registrar of vital statistics may grant a genealogist immediate access to such records or may require a genealogist to schedule an appointment to access such records, at the registrar’s discretion. A registrar requiring an appointment for access to such records shall schedule such appointment as soon as reasonably practicable.”

 

This legislation is wrong for these reasons:

1)    It would gut the existing provision regarding “normal business hours” access; that right was emphasized in the revised 1996 legislation (I was one of its authors) because registrars were unfairly treating genealogists as if our requests were “frivolous,” whereas the business of others was “serious.” It simply meant that genealogists were not second-class citizens and should be served on a first-come-first-served basis like everyone else.

 

2)    It would demand that all genealogists contact a town hall first because we would never know whether an appointment is necessary before research. If you have ever attempted to telephone a vital record office of a city in Connecticut, you know that this would make research a nightmare.

 

3)    It would allow all registrars the power to put off for days, weeks or longer any researcher wishing to legally access the public (death. marriage, land, and all other) records of our government until they deem it is “reasonably practicable.” While Connecticut spends millions of dollars trying to attract the tourist trade to our state, this would heartily discourage them from coming here, staying in hotels, eating in our restaurants, going to our attractions and researching in our libraries and especially town halls, as they do now for weeks at a time.

 

4)    The most egregious part of this legislation is that it would single out a particular class of American citizens, genealogists, whether acting from an avocation or conducting a business, for adverse treatment. This is legally impermissible. Others who regularly make records requests of registrars are attorneys, funeral directors, title searchers, real estate agents, heads of municipalities, soccer moms, veterans, medical researchers, officials from state and federal agencies and departments, police departments, adoption agencies, statisticians, newspaper reporters, authors, biographers and other members of the general public. Not one of these groups would be adversely affected by this legislation – just genealogists.

 

Tell them that, as a genealogist, you do not want to lose your status as American citizens simply because your reason for making legal requests may be different from that of others, nor can your requests be treated as inferior to those of other citizens. In this country, all must be treated equally under the law.

 

The bill is ostensibly from the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Jewell Mullen (see her at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3115&q=473414). Visit her page and send her a complaining message too. She was probably importuned by a small handful of registrars, but we don’t know; because this is a short session of the legislature, bills are not introduced by individual legislators, so tracking the origin of this proposal is most difficult.

 

More information about the bill and the names of all legislators can be found at http://www.cga.ct.gov. You should become as familiar with this site as possible (this may become a yearly event!). It is possible to track the progress on this legislation by clicking “bill tracking” at the upper right corner; then, when a change is made, you will receive an e-mail letting you know of the change. To find the wording of this bill, simply type in “414” in the box at the top labeled “Number,” then click on “Raised Bill” and a pdf copy of the bill should pop up.

 

Thank you so much for your help with this crisis. Your individual support is absolutely essential to defeating this threat.

UPDATED 28 Mar 2014:

RPAC Member Barbara Matthews has shared the following report from Tom Howard:

“Dear Friends in Genealogy:

The note just received from 6th District and Co-Chairman of the Public Health Committee Senator Gerratana’ s office has confirmed that SB 414 has failed to get out of the committee to the floor of the State Senate and House because of the outpouring of letters, phone calls and e mails received and testimony given at the public hearing on the bill.

We feel confident that the bill is dead and will stay dead for this session. We will remain vigilant that the matter will not appear as amendments to other bills. We ask that you thank senators and representatives for any help they have given us while asking them to continue to watch for any matters affecting genealogists.

Robert Rafford, Nora Galvin and I thank you again for your help in getting the message out.

Sincerely,

Tom Howard

Genealogical Coalition 2014

Steering Committee

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Commerce Certification Program — We’ve only just begun! Updated

The Bipartisan Budget Act included provisions limiting immediate access to the SSA Death Master File to all but those certified under a program to be developed by the Department of Commerce.

Commerce intends to follow a robust notice and comment process in the development of the Certification Program.   Expect an announcement of a Request for Information (RFI) to be published shortly in the Federal Register and on the project web page at:  http://www.ntis.gov/products/ssa-dmf.aspx  .  It is also likely that some form of a public hearing will follow.

Updated 2 March:  On the 26th of February the anticipated Request for Information became  available on the NTIS site above with the official publication in the Federal Register to follow.  DMF NOTICE (2)

The RFI also announces a public meeting at which members of the public may provide comments on the establishment of the certification program for access to the DMF in person on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm Eastern time at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Madison Building West, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22341.

RPAC representatives are planning to participate in this public hearing.  Attendance of others (and the conduct of the hearing itself) may be influenced by a forecasted winter storm.  While we do not want to discourage others from attending this public hearing, concern for safety should be a major factor in your decision to do so.  If you anticipate that you will be able to attend, please email access@fgs.org and provide your contact information so that we may know of your availability and interest.

RPAC and component organizations are planning to provide comments on the RFI within the specified 15 days from the Federal Register publication date.  If published as promised on 3 March, that would be 5pm Eastern on Tuesday, 18 March.  Other individuals and organizational members of the genealogical community (especially those for whom a three year delay before having access to the DMF/SSDI would be problematic) are strongly encouraged to comment on the RFI as well.

After analyzing the comments in response to this RFI we understand that a proposed draft of the certification program contemplated by the Bipartisan Budget Act will be published  to be followed by what we hope will be a further robust notice and comment process.

Stay tuned.

 

 

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Senate Finance Committee — Tax Administration Discussion Drafts

RPAC and IAJGS  responded to the Senate Finance Committee invitation to provide input on Reforms to Administration of Tax Laws issued November 20, 2013 found at:  http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=a4f8205c-d286-4a41-a61d-753d1abd23d3  Of particular interest to the genealogical community are those provisions that would attempt to address tax fraud by identity theft by limiting access to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) also known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

RPAC Feedback to SFC Discussion Draft 20 Jan 2013 Final2

And with thanks to Michael S. Ramage, J.D., CG

Exhibit A 2014 forensic genealogists

IAJGS Comments for Senate Finance Committee final c (2)

We continue to urge immediate access for all genealogists but acknowledge that a three year delay before display of SSNs in the Death Master File/SSDI, if otherwise needed, would be manageable for most of us.  We list categories of genealogists for whom a three year delay would be problematic and who should be certified for immediate access.

Summary

We offer four main points:

(1)   We are anxious to support the effort to implement the provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act requiring the Department of Commerce to develop a Certification Program governing access to the Death Master File. Genealogists who fit the (a-f) categories listed on pages 2-3 should be accommodated for quick certification. The genealogical community is a vitally interested stakeholder in this process.

 

(2)   As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from professional genealogists be sought.  The members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee stand ready to assist in arranging for that input to both the Executive and Legislative branches. We can best be reached at access@fgs.org .

 

(3)   Our strongest message is that steps already taken by the IRS and genealogical entities to protect SSNs listed in the SSDI may have already intercepted this particular form of identity theft without waiting for any additional legislation.

 

(4)   The SSNs of living people will remain vulnerable as long as the IRS mandate is to rush payments of tax refunds before information returns can be compared with the submitted return to assure its validity.

 

 

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Death Master File (SSDI) Comes Out of Obscurity!

Roughly two years ago the parents of recently deceased children began finding that the IRS was rejecting  their legitimate tax returns because the identities of their children had previously been used by thieves to claim fraudulent refunds.  Prior to those events, it is unlikely that these parents (or most legislators) had even heard of the Social Security Death Index (aka the Death Master File) nor the role it should play in preventing such predations.

The inclusion of provisions that might limit access to the DMF in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement recently adopted by the Congress, has encouraged the press to begin to try to explain what it is and how it functions for good and ill.

a.  “Death Master File reform breathes life into U.S. budget deal

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/11/us-usa-budget-deathlist-idUSBRE9BA1D520131211

b. Newsweek Article with a Zombie theme

http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/12/20/returns-living-dead.html

c.  The American Thinker article by Ken Ryesky

http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/congress_is_plugging_the_wrong_hole.html

d.  Commerce Department DMF Web Site

https://www.ssdmf.com/Library/InfoManage/Guide.asp?FolderID=98&SessionID={2971715F-6653-44F1-B103-048162A287F2}&SP=2

Please take advantage of (and seek out) every opportunity to share with your elected representatives the message “WHEN USED, the DMF should prevent fraud, not cause it ! ! ! !”

Congressional State and District Work Periods scheduled in January might be a good time to schedule a visit with your Senators and Representatives in their local offices.

 

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Record Access Article in Avotaynu

IAJGS was privileged to be asked to write an article on records access as the lead article for the 2013 Fall Issue of Avotaynu.  The article was a collaborative work of the members of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee.

You may access the article at http://www.iajgs.org/pramc/legislation.html . The article is posted in two parts.

The article focuses on three areas: the European Union Proposed Data Privacy Regulation, the [US]  2011 Model State Vital Records Regulation and the access to Death Master File/ Social Security Death Index which Congress has been debating for several years.  The article was published before this week’s surprise inclusion in the Bi Partisan Budget Bill with the limited access to the Death Master File/Social Security Death Index.  The Bi Partisan Budget bill passed the House of Representatives  332-94  and Senate voted on December 17 67-33 to advance the bill for a floor vote expected this week where it is likely to pass.  The issues discussed about the DMF/SSDI are still relevant regarding permitting specific types of genealogists to have immediate access and the IAJGS as part of the genealogical community will be working toward that end in 2014 with the Commerce Department and the relevant Congressional Committees to expand the definition of “legitimate users” to include these types of genealogists..

Thank you to Sally Ann Sack-Pikus and Gary Mokotoff for recognizing the importance of records access to invite the article and to give it prominence as the lead Avotaynu article.

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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DMF/SSDI — Senate Passes Bipartisan Budget Agreement

This afternoon senators voted 64 to 36 to approve the bipartisan budget agreement.  Section 203 restricts access to the Death Master File (DMF) to certified individuals under a new program established under the Department of Commerce.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-poised-to-pass-bipartisan-budget-agreement/2013/12/18/54fd3a1a-6807-11e3-a0b9-249bbb34602c_print.html

This section also establishes a new user fee to cover the cost of certification that is projected to raise $517 million over 10 years.

RPAC will be outlining the approach we will be recommending that the genealogical community take in participating in the process Commerce is expected to take in developing this new program.

Much more to come.  Stay tuned.

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Budget Bill Passes House Floor Vote — Updated 13 December

The Budget agreement that was announced on Tuesday 10 December was the subject of a House Floor vote today.  At 6:26pm Eastern Standard Time, the House adopted the proposed continuing resolution H.J.Res. 59 by a vote of 332-94.  On conclusion of today’s business the House adjourned to reconvene on Monday the 16th of December.

Senate action is not yet scheduled but may be anticipated before the end of session adjournment.

Update 13 December:  Washington Post is reporting that the Senate will begin debate on Tuesday 17 December with a vote to be scheduled later in the week.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/12/13/budget-agreement-poised-to-advance-in-the-senate/?wpisrc=nl_pmpol  

and the London Daily Mail reports  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2523120/ZERO-Senate-Republicans-support-budget-agreement-Democrats-five.html 

 

With thanks to Sharon Sergeant, the following Reuters Article sheds an interesting light on the role the Death Master File may have played in the Budget Agreement:

“Death Master File reform breathes life into U.S. budget deal”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/11/us-usa-budget-deathlist-idUSBRE9BA1D520131211

The proponents of DMF closure are citing numbers that I can’t recognize in asserting how much revenue will be “raised” by the closure.  My impression is that the numbers cited in the Reuters article (quoting unnamed Congressional staffers) are only achievable if the closing of access to SSNs of the deceased somehow  intercepts fraudulent use of the SSNs of the living.

 

Additionally, Barbara Matthews provided the following links to the APG Members List:

(1)  Judy Russell at http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/12/12/vote-looms-on-ssdi-closure/and

(2)   the Massachusetts Genealogical Council at http://www.massgencouncil.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=64&Itemid=127

RPAC had also addressed the issue of Tax Fraud and Tax ID Theft  before the Senate Finance Committee last Spring:

http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2013/05/05/senate-finance-committee-16-april-hearing-update-pending/

Much more to come.

 

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Budget Bill Includes the Access Limitations for Death Master File/SSDI

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen,

The Bipartisan Budget Bill 2014 includes a revenue –generating provision that limits access to the Death Master File/Social Security Death Index. The provisions are identical to bills IAJGS and the genealogical community have been opposing in submitted statements to the US Congress for several years as there are no provisions to permit genealogists to have immediate access nor the special categories of genealogists that the genealogical community have agreed are to be given immediate access while the rest of us may wait a few years. The budget bill includes penalties for violations $1,000 per violations with  a cap of $250,000 per person violator which is included in the revenue generating provisions.

 

The access restrictions to the Death Master File as stated in the bipartisan budget bill are for three years from date of death.  Those certified by the Secretary of Commerce  who have immediate access are listed to have legitimate fraud prevention interest or a legitimate business purpose pursuant to law governmental rule regulation or fiduciary duty and has systems, facilities, and procedures in place to safeguard such information, and experience in maintaining the confidentiality, security, and appropriate use of such information,

 

To read the bipartisan budget bill which is currently being debated in both the House and Senate see: http://tinyurl.com/kpksqp4  Go to section 203 starting on page 32 through page 37 to read the restrictions.

Original url:

http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20131209/AMNT-113-HJRes59sa-1R_xml.pdf
To read about the proposed revenue generation based on penalties go to:  http://tinyurl.com/mu5gbjd

Original url:

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/Bipartisan%20Budget%20Act%20of%202013.pdf     See pages 9 and 10

 

Thank you to Sharon Sergeant of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council for alerting us to this new threat for genealogists access to the Death Master File/Social Security Death File.

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Stay tuned.  Much more to come!

 

 

 

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