New Congress– More to Come! — HR 295

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

 

Original url:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr295ih/pdf/BILLS-113hr295ih.pdf

 

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

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NEW! SSDI Call to Action Kit

SSDI Call to Action Kit

Record Preservation and Access Committee

Your help is needed to help Save the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) as an accessible resource for the genealogical community and others. Here are ways that you can help:

1. Educate yourself on why saving the SSDI is so important to the genealogy community!

- Please see the SSDI FAQ at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2012/02/08/ssdi-frequently-asked-questions-faq%E2%80%99s/.

- Watch the video of the 2 Feb Hearing before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee found at http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=133. For a glimpse of the Administration’s vision of genealogical access to the SSDI, focus on the five minute segment beginning with Congressman Marchant’s question to SSA Commissioner Astrue near minute 26 and ending with the completion of the Commissioner’s answer to the Chairman’s follow-up question at 31:00. If you are on the fence about signing the RPAC petition, this should be required reading.

- View the Got Records? Threats to Genealogy Records Access video at http://broadcast.lds.org/elearning/FHD/Community/en/Community/Jan_Meisels_Allen/Got_Records__Threats_to_Genealogy_Records_Access/Player.html featuring RPAC member Jan Meisels Allen. This is a good overview of RPAC and the issues confronting access to the SSDI and other records.

2. Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.

If you are experiencing problems with registering at the website or signing the petition, please see http://fgs.org/pdf/rpac_petition.pdf. Most issues with the petition can be solved by closing your browser window, opening a new browser window and clicking http://wh.gov/khE once you’ve registered with the website.

3. Fax and email letters to Congress!

Download a sample letter at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/sample_ssdi_letter_basic.doc  (Microsoft Word) or at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/sample_ssdi_letter_basic.pdf (PDF) and read the instructions carefully. Your efforts will be more effective if you:

- fax a copy of your letter to Congressman Sam Johnson, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.; and

- email copies of your letter to your own Representative and Senators.

4. Help get the word out to others!

- Post the link http://wh.gov/khE as part of a Status Update on Facebook if you have a Facebook account. Also, don’t forget to post to any Facebook pages or groups to which you are subscribed, including genealogical societies!

- If you use Twitter, include the link http://wh.gov/khE and briefly explain why signing the petition is important. The hashtag for this campaign is #openssdi.

- Consider putting the link http://wh.gov/khE in your email signature to let others know about the petition.

5. Ask questions! RPAC is here to help!

For further information, contact RPAC at access@fgs.org.

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SSDI–Their Vision for OUR Future

Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.   

 We encourage every genealogist to view the entire video of the 2 Feb Hearing before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee found at:

http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=133

BUT for a glimpse of the Administration’s vision of genealogical access to the SSDI, focus on the five minute segment beginning with Congressman Marchant’s question to SSA Commissioner Astrue near minute 26 and ending with the completion of the Commissioner’s answer to the Chairman’s follow-up question at 31:00.

This snippet is also available at: 

http://youtu.be/HuSVZvMmN5A

If you are on the fence about signing the RPAC petition, this should be required reading.

Can you really find the information we get from the SSDI in other records?

Would you like to wait 75 years for the SSDI to become available to the public?

Would you like to wait 125 years for public access to birth records in every state?

Sign the We The People petition at http://wh.gov/khE.   

 

 

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SSDI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

SSDI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Record Preservation and Access Committee

1. I’m having trouble signing the petition; how can I resolve this issue?

IMPORTANT: Step-by-step instructions on how to register with WhiteHouse.gov and sign the petition are available at http://fgs.org/pdf/rpac_petition.pdf.

The process involves three steps: 1) registering at WhiteHouse.gov, 2) checking your email and clicking the verification link, and – most importantly – 3) signing the petition.

How can you tell if you’ve successfully signed the petition? You will see a confirmation displaying your signature number and the message “You’ve already signed this petition” will appear at the bottom of the screen.  And if you scroll down, you should see a square note with your first name and last initial plus your signature number.

Those reporting the most problems with the process are using Google Chrome as a web browser. If you are having trouble signing the petition after going through all the hoops, close your browser window, open a new browser window and click the http://wh.gov/khE link to sign the petition.

2. What is the Record Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) doing to save the Social Security Death Index a.k.a. Social Security Death Master File from being removed from public view?

RPAC has developed a multi-pronged strategy to address this issue. This strategy includes all of the measures available to us in a democracy: making our voices heard through petitions, personal and organizational letters, visits to legislators, witnesses and statements before legislative and administrative bodies, and every other legitimate means.

3. Why is RPAC initiating a petition with the “We the People” site at the White House?

At this time, a key piece of the strategy is to get publicity for our message.  The “We the People” website is a commitment by the Obama Administration to highlight issues that a significant number of Americans feel are important. Those issues are then sent on to decision-makers in Washington who can best implement solutions and improvements.

RPAC is using this vehicle to deliver a strong message to the IRS that they have the power to solve this problem TODAY; they don’t need legislation and they don’t need to remove public access to the SSDI.

4. Why wasn’t the key message of the petition “Save the SSDI” instead of “Stop Identity Theft Now”?

The message is that IRS could stop this overnight if they chose to do so by using rather than hiding the SSDI as a tool. This message can best be delivered with a positive approach rather than an emotional “Save the SSDI” petition. Our message is to focus on the real problem they are trying to solve and not to redact the SSDI with an emotional knee-jerk piece of legislation.

5. Why not deliver both of the above messages in the petition?

There is a limit on the number of characters/words for the body of the petition. The RPAC chose to focus on drawing the attention to stopping identity theft so that legislators and the government employees who need to solve the problem will view genealogists as wanting to be part of the solution, not simply focused on something they are going to lose.

6. Why now? Why a petition instead of other means of communication?

Before this is over, we will have used all available means at our disposal related to the SSDI issues. In our Model State Liaison Briefing, we list a number of community responses, each with a specific impact. The coordinated timing of these options over the coming months will be the best way to make our voices heard on this issue. Please stay connected to this issue through the RPAC blog and other media outlets in the genealogical community. We need your continued interest and support.

7. Will we get the required amount of signatures in time for the 8 March 2012 deadline?

We strongly believe that we will get the signatures in time. We believe that we will get more than the needed 25,000 signatures due to the size of the genealogical community and the social networks available for this purpose.

In truth, the sooner we reach the minimum threshold and the more signatures above the 25,000 minimum, the louder and stronger the message, so our goal is to exceed that number by a significant amount.

8. Will the RPAC be contacting other stakeholders (legal, banking and the insurance industry)?

Yes, this is a community effort and they will be contacted. However, contact doesn’t necessarily mean that they will become allies. In a political issue like this one, all of the parties will position themselves to their best advantage. For many of these industries, the genealogical community is viewed as a non-significant and often irrational partner and government agencies may grant them a conditional use option that is not public. They don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that option for their industry.

This is why the RPAC is taking the approach to both communicate our message and to change the misperception that we want open records at any cost. We’re here to offer meaningful and tangible solutions to the real issues and strike a balance between open records and solving the issues of identity theft in a post 9/11 world.

However, we are also reaching out to the organizations that happen to be our best allies such as librarians, attorneys, information professionals, human resource specialists and others.

9. Why did it take so long to get this petition drive put together?

The real issue is coordinating the strategy, timing, messaging and all the other components of mounting a national campaign. This effort is accomplished by a team of volunteers, many of whom have full-time jobs and do this in addition to their daily commitments. If you would like to volunteer to assist in this effort, please spread the messages to your network of friends and contacts (see below).

10. How can I encourage others to sign the petition? What are some effective ways that I can help get the word out?

Social media has been the most effective vehicle for many similar petitions. You can help by:

·       Posting the link http://wh.gov/khE as part of a Status Update on Facebook if you have a Facebook account.  Also, don’t forget to post to any Facebook pages or groups to which you are subscribed, including genealogical societies!

·       If you use Twitter, include the link http://wh.gov/khE and briefly explain why signing the petition is important.  The hashtag for this campaign is #openssdi.

·       Consider putting the link http://wh.gov/khE in your email signature to let others know about the petition.

For further information, contact RPAC at access@fgs.org.

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