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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Founding RPAC Member Joy Reisinger, RIP

With thanks to Linda McCleary for bringing this news to our attention:

BCG Springboard:  News and Notes has posted a new item, “Former BCG Vice President Joy Reisinger, RIP”

Guest post by the Rev. David McDonald, CGSM

It is my sad duty to report that Joy Reisinger, Certified Genealogist Emeritus died early Tuesday morning, 10 December 2013, in her hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin.  A past trustee and vice president of the Board, Joy also served as conference program co-chair for the NGS conferences at Saint Paul and Milwaukee. . . .

You may view the full BCG  post at:

http://bcgcertification.org/blog/2013/12/former-bcg-vice-president-joy-reisinger-rip/

Our friend and colleague will be missed.

 

 

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DDP Anniversary — ECPA Reform Day of Action — Updated 12 December

It has now been a year since the Records Preservation and Access Committee joined the Digital Due Process Coalition in the hope of injecting the interests of the genealogical community into the dialogue being conducted in Washington DC.  Far too often we had previously observed a tendency to address privacy concerns with a reflexive tendency to simply close access to the records we need.  We announced that affiliation in a blog post on 2 December 2012 found here:  http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2012/12/02/ssdi-the-search-for-allies/

 

A number of our colleagues in the DDP Coalition (and other enterprises) last Thursday , the 5th of December, joined a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) [http://www.digital4th.org/petition.html], the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.

The announcement of this effort continued:

“ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values; in fact, many companies have fought back and now demand warrants before turning over customers’ communications.

 

Bills to reform ECPA have gained huge support in recent months from both parties in Congress. However, legislation is now being blocked by a proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is pushing for a special carve-out for regulatory agencies to get your documents from online providers without a warrant. The SEC carve-out would neuter ECPA reform.

 

That’s why we’re calling on the White House to break its silence and stand up for ECPA reform. We need President Obama to tell the SEC to back down in its demands for troubling new powers and make clear that the time for ECPA reform is now.

 

Today we ask you join us by signing this petition to the White House [http://www.digital4th.org/petition.html]. It’s time for the President to join tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this commonsense, long overdue reform to ensure our privacy rights online.”

Update:  12 December–As of early this morning, the number of signers of the petition had exceeded the 100K threshold required to trigger a formal response from the Administration.  Over 30 thousand signatures were garnered in the last two days, an astounding feat!

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Maine Vital Records Regulations — Call for Input

Most of the posts to this blog involve statutory threats to our access to the records we need.  The development of the regulations implementing these statutes give reason for continuing concern about our access and may provide an additional opportunity for the genealogical community to influence the outcome.

With thanks to Helen Shaw, the President of the Maine Genealogical Society (and the RPAC State Liaison) we have such an opportunity at this time.  Helen will be coordinating the position of the genealogical community to be presented to authorities in Maine by the 12th of December.

The attachments to which she refers are found here:

ODRVS rules chapter 4

ODRVS rules chapter 8

DHHS revised rules

In her words:

“Last Friday I, and other members of the vital records stakeholders group, received an e-mail from Theresa Roberts, the rule making coordinator for Data, Research, and Vital Statistics, with the draft revision of the rules for accessing vital records. Stakeholders have until December 12 to submit comments on the draft. A meeting of the group is scheduled for December 12, but the location is not yet set.

Basically what Theresa has done is combine the old rule chapters 4 & 8 into one document. I have attached as pdfs the draft revision and copies of the original chapters 4 & 8. I have only had time to do a quick read through the draft and have already contacted Theresa on some issues. I do think that many parts of chapter 4 have been deleted to the detriment of genealogists, but need to confirm that by comparing the original chapters with the revision.

I would like to have your input on these rules. You all will be my second set of eyes. If you have any chapter meetings coming up, please discuss this issue and pass on any suggestions to me.

I would also like to hear about folks’ problems with accessing vital records over the past 2 years, both at town offices and at the state vital records office. I would also like to hear about how often folks access vital records, again at both the town and state level: are they going in occasionally for themselves or clients; are they looking for one record or many, one surname or many; are they allowed to look at indexes or must they always ask a clerk to look up a record; are they charged a fee — if yes, how much.  It would be most helpful if I could have this information before the December 12 meeting. Folks can e-mail me directly or, for chapters, you can collect the responses and send them as a group.

Thanks for your help. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Helen

Helen Shaw <hashaw@earthlink.net>

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