With thanks to our IAJGS representatives, Jan Meisels Allen and Ken Ryesky
Legislation that was not signed into law before last year’s Congressional session ended has died. In the just ended Congressional session 2011-2012, we saw several bills introduced and hearings held in both the House and Senate on identity theft where the genealogical community was considered one of the “culprits” for accessing the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) the commercial version of the Death Master File (DMF).
The new Congressional session has begun ( 2013-2014). The first bill regarding identity theft and the Social Security Death Index was introduced on January 15, 2013 by Representative Richard Nugent (R-FL 11th district) HR 295- and was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. Representative Nugent was a sponsor and cosponsor on several of the bills introduced last session that addressed identity theft and the SSDI/DMF. At the time of this posting, there are no cosponsors nor are there any hearings scheduled. The bill is called: “ Protect and Save Act of 2013”. You can read the bill by clicking on this pdf: http://tinyurl.com/al3pb4y
The provisions of greatest concern to the genealogical community include Section 7 (page 7 of the above-referenced pdf): “Restriction On Access to the Death Master File”. Here , the Secretary of Commerce is prohibited from disclosing any information contained in the DMF regarding any individual who died in the previous two calendar years unless the person is certified under a specific program where the person has a” legitimate fraud prevention interest” in accessing the information described in the DMF. There is no definition of what a “legitimate fraud prevention interest” is and any one violating this provision is subject to substantial monetary penalties. This bill also provides an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Social Security Administration as they would not be compelled to disclose information to someone who is not certified under this provision of the bill.
Other provisions of the bill include: identity theft as a result of filing a fraudulent tax return, working cooperatively between federal, state and local law officials with limitations on who may obtain and share information regarding tax fraud and identity theft, implementation of a fraud deterrent process using a personal identification number (PIN) on their annual tax filings for those who have been victims of identity theft , a study on identity theft due to prepaid debit cards and commercial tax preparation software in tax fraud, a study on electronic filing of tax returns in tax fraud.
Many of the items included in the bill resulted from testimonies in last session’s hearings-to which IAJGS submitted statements regarding the genealogical impact on some of these provisions and provided a proposed solution adopted by the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) of which IAJGS is a voting member– for certain types of forensic genealogists and certain types of certified genealogists ) to be exempt for any waiting period and 2-3 years wait for all others . IAJGS submitted suggestions on certification for genealogists such as those-certified by the Board of Certified Genealogists (BCG) or ICAPGen (International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists). Based on this initial version of HR 295, it appears not include the genealogical community’s proposal.
Congressman Dave Kemp (R- MI 4th district) was reappointed as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) was reappointed as chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security which will probably be one of the subcommittees under the House Ways and Means Committee that will have jurisdiction and hold hearings. Congressman Nugent does not appear to be a member serving on the House Ways and Means Committee-at least at this time.
Thank you to Ken Ryesky, Esq. IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee member for bringing this bill’s introduction to our attention. This bill and other bills addressing the same issue which may be introduced bear our watching.
Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee