records. We speak often about preservation, but we have to be just as
diligent about access. It is an important responsibility for all of us to
learn about the issues and to keep up-to-date on them.
A few months ago, we were able to view Capitol Hill subcommittee hearings
online to learn about efforts to end tax fraud. The bills to support those
efforts included language to close the SSDI (called the Death Master File by
Those subcommittees called for an audit of the IRS to reveal the extent of
the fraud. The results are in and they don't look good. Because of this and
of the suggestions from the audit, the various bills were rewritten. The new
bills will probably move forward without delay.
The language in the original bills would have closed the SSDI permanently.
The new bills permit close it to genealogists for two years. During those
two years, only people involved in detecting fraud will have access. Of all
the options available in the original bills, this one provides for the least
Genealogists were shut out of the hearings that took place this spring.
Melinde Lutz Byrne, President of the American Society of Genealogists, was
present at one hearing but not allowed to testify.
MGC has blogged about this issue over the last few months. I'd like to call
your attention to our newest blog postings on the topic. The two postings
"New Legislation Would Close the SSDI for 2 Years"
"The Bottom Line on Tax Fraud? $5 Billion per Year"
The second blog posting contains a little information about whom you should
Those genealogists whose livelihoods or volunteer work depend on access to
the SSDI should consider communicating with their own Congressmen and
Senators. Work of this type includes those who work to return the remains of
Missing or Killed in Action servicemen, those who seek the next-of-kin for
Unclaimed Persons, and others in similar compassionate roles.
Explain why access to the Death Master File is critical to your work and ask
your legislator to contact the House and Senate subcommittee chairs with the
message to add investigative genealogists to the list of credentialed
people. The current bills open the records only to those stopping fraud. Our
compassionate work needs to be recognized. We were denied the opportunity to
testify at any of the subcommittee hearings. Our own legislators are now our
only path to having our voices heard.