SSDI–Statement for the Record–Senate Finance Subcommittee Hearing–20 March 2012

RPAC and its sponsoring organizations (FGS, NGS, IAJGS)  all submitted Statements for the Record supplementing the transcript of the March 20, 2012  hearing of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth of the Senate Committee on Finance  entitled “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2:  Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions” in response to a committee invitation to do so.

RPAC Statement for Record SFC

FGS Statement for Record SFC

NGS Statement for Record SFC

IAJGS Statement for Record SFC

We will be supplementing this posting with additional  Statements for the Record submitted by other societies and uniquely qualified individuals that come to our attention.

Kenneth H. Ryesky Comments for Record SFC

We have all been outraged by reports of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax refund claims using the SSNs of recently deceased infants & adults.  Our strongest message is that the means to stop this particular form of identity theft exists now, without waiting for any additional legislation.

       As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from actual 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 continue to work with members and staff of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and other interested legislators as they consider legislative responses to the outrageous conduct of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax return claiming refunds and credits utilizing the SSNs of recently deceased infants and adults.

 The outcome is far from certain.  Please stay tuned.  We may need to call for community action at various stages in the ongoing legislative process.

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SSDI Update–RPAC recomendation

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
Rm. SD-219
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.

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SSDI–Senate Finance Committee Hearing– 20 March

The Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Growth of  the United States Senate Committee on Finance has announced a hearing for Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT entitled “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2: Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions.

The link announcing the hearing and listing witnesses scheduled to appear is found at:

http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=8c908260-5056-a032-525c-4f663b8d35f8

From this landing page the hearing can be viewed live at the scheduled time or after several days will be available for subsequent viewing.

This Subcommittee is chaired by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) as the ranking member.   Senator Nelson is the author of Senate Bill S 1534, one of four identity theft bills before the Congress and possibly impacting access to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).   That bill as introduced September 8, 2011 can be viewed at:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1534is/pdf/BILLS-112s1534is.pdf

This same Subcommittee held a hearing addressing these issues on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 entitled “The Spread of Tax Fraud by Identity Theft:  A Threat to Taxpayers, A Drain on the Public Treasury.”  Those proceedings can be viewed and prepared statements downloaded from:http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=32a4f2cc-5056-a032-5258-8967bf140b37

We understand that there may be opportunity for the submission of additional materials for the record after the hearing.  We will be announcing RPAC recommendations for possible community action as details are developed.  Stay tuned.

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Submissions for the Record –Social Security Subcommittee of House Ways & Means–2 Feb Hearing

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

RPAC and its sponsoring organizations (FGS, NGS, IAJGS)  all submitted Statements for the Record supplementing the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing  2 February 2012 in response to a committee invitation to do so.

RPAC Statement for Record HWMC 16 Feb

FGS Statement for Record HWMC 16 Feb

NGS Statement for Record HWMC

IAJGS Statement for Record HWMC

We particularly appreciated supporting Statements for the Record submitted by other societies and uniquely qualified individuals, some of which have come to our attention.

Kenneth H. Ryesky Comments for Record HWMC

APG Statement for the Record

Massachusetts Genealogical Council Statement for Record

Virginia Genealogical Society

Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogists

We have all been outraged by reports of identity thieves filing fraudulent tax refund claims using the SSNs of recently deceased infants & adults.  Our strongest message is that the means to stop this particular form of identity theft exists now, without waiting for any additional legislation.

       As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from actual 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.

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

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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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Now Available: Got Records? Threats To Genealogy Records Access

Got Records? Threats To Genealogy Records Access

During the recent RootsTech conference, RPAC member Jan Meisels Allen – Vice President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and President, Program Chair and founding member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County – sat down with FGS Board of Directors member Thomas MacEntee to present an overview of RPAC, current threats to genealogy records access and issues involving threats to access of the Social Security Death Index. Click here to view the interview.

Thanks go out to FamilySearch and the Family History Library for their assistance in producing this interview and making it available for free to the public.

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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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RPAC Announces Stop ID Theft NOW! Campaign with White House Petition

With thanks to Thomas MacEntee:

Instructions for signing up at WhiteHouse.gov and signing the petition can be found at http://fgs.org/pdf/rpac_petition.pdf.

You can check the press release announcing this initiative at http://voice.fgs.org 


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