Most family historians and genealogists know what the SSDI is but there are many who visit genealogy blogs who may not know what it is, what has happened to it, and why it's important to keep it publicly accessible. This post is primarily for those readers.
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a list of people who have died who had social security numbers. It tells the name of the person, approximate date of birth, month of death, location where the last benefit was paid, and the social security number. Until recently the SSDI was available publicly, at no cost, on rootsweb and one or two other websites. Family historians used it, banks used it, the IRS should have used it.
Late last year the SSDI was removed from public access. I don't know specific details of its removal but I understand that people have been stealing social security numbers of deceased individuals by claiming them as their own or as those of sons and/or daughters on income tax returns and in various other ways. Cheaters.
If you ever searched for someone who lived or died during the last century, you know how helpful the SSDI can be. If you ever needed to learn the social security number of a deceased family member, you know the importance of the SSDI. We all know that the IRS could create a computer program to search the social security numbers on income tax returns, thereby stopping theft of social security numbers.
The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, National Genealogical Society, and International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, initiated a Stop Identity Theft Now campaign by creating a petition at We the People, Your Voice in Our Government. If you agree that the SSDI, properly used, could be more helpful open than closed, I encourage you to sign the petition. More than 21,000 signatures are needed by March 8.
However, you can do more (and probably better) than just sign the petition. You can write a letter to your U.S. representative and senator and send or fax a copy to Congressman Sam Johnson, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, where discussion of the future of the SSDI is now taking place. Click here to see a sample letter and use the links to find who your senator and representative are.
Losing the SSDI is one more step away from access to precious documents and records.
If you'd like to learn more about the campaign, please go to SSDI Call to Action at the RPAC website.