On behalf of RPAC we thank all of the readers of the RPAC blog and most especially our state liaisons for helping carry the message of how important continued access to the SSDI is to the genealogical community.
As you are aware both the US House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security and the US Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth held hearings in February and March which addressed access by the public to the Death Master File also known commercially as the Social Security Death Index. The genealogical community was not invited to testify at either hearing, but the genealogical community, namely, FGS, IAJGS, NGS and RPAC along with others submitted written statements for the record to the House Subcommittee and this week each of us are submitting written statements for the record to the Senate Subcommittee. We have been in contact with staff of both subcommittees before each hearing and continue to be in touch with both staffs following the hearings….the issue is very much alive on our agendas.
Genealogists have proven to be effective negotiators as exemplified most recently with the successes in both Pennsylvania and Virginia where the local genealogical community with support from outside their respective states were successful in obtaining new laws with the public gaining greater access to vital records. Recently, the RPAC leadership discussed what is most realistic considering the differences between the House and Senate versions of legislation—no access or access two years including year of death. Compromise has to be considered, what is best for the overall genealogical community is to have reasonable access, and those professional genealogists who are forensic genealogists, heir researchers, and family medical history researchers should be given immediate access.
After listening to Congressional staff and discussion with others in the genealogical community, RPAC leaders’ statements for the record submitted to the Senate Subcommittee will state that:
While we advocate all genealogists should have immediate access to the SSDI, we would support the two year delay in access as proposed in S 1534-and if necessary the third year that National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson advocated during her oral testimony during the March 20th hearing. This support is with the caveat that certain genealogists are to be eligible for certification for immediate access. These genealogists include: forensic genealogists, heir researchers, and those researching individual genetically inherited diseases.
We recognize that some of you may not agree with this position, but our collective and unified position is this is what is best in light of increased identity theft and legislators trying to address prevention on behalf of their constituents in an election year—even though genealogists are not the cause of identity theft.
Judy Russell in her March 20th The Legal Genealogist Blog said, and we concur:
“The big difference between last month’s House hearing and today’s Senate hearing is that, if we had to, most of us in the genealogical community could live with the bill that’s being considered today. Senate Bill 1534,2 sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s much much better for genealogists as a whole than the bill introduced on the House side by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.).3
Nelson’s bill really focuses on identity theft and fraudulent tax filings by people who steal the Social Security numbers of others and would only delay disclosure of death information reported to the SSDI.4 Johnson’s bill would take the SSDI away from the public forever.5 If we have no choice but an either-or, this one is a no-brainer.”
Otto Von Bismark said, never watch laws or sausage being made, and this is one of those times. We hope that you will send in your statement to the Senate Subcommittee—they will accept it snail mail only ( no e-mails nor faxes) and the deadline is April 3. Please send your statements for the record to:
Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Editorial and Document Section
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200
The required format is: A typewritten, single-spaced statement, not exceeding 10 pages in length. Title and date of the hearing, and the full name and address of the individual or organization must appear on the first page of the statement. Statements must be received no later than two weeks following the conclusion of the hearing.