Access to Social Security Death Index Information Has Been Limited by Congress

According to a must-read blog at The Legal Genealogist website, the much-heralded budget bill that was signed into law on December 26th included the partial-closure of the Social Security Death Index along with the exemption of SSDI information from the Freedom of Information Act. This was included in the budget bill as “a purported revenue-enhancing measure.”

The long and the short of it is that deaths cannot be reported on the publicly-accessable SSDI until 3 years after they have taken place. It doesn’t look like the currently acccessible SSDI info at FamilySearch, Ancestry, etc. will be taken from us (although I see no reason why the government couldn’t force closure until data from the last 3 years is removed, the Feds having pretty-well proven that they are a law-unto-themselves the last year). However, do not expect another SSDI update for three years. Also, don’t expect to get SS-5s of anyone who died in the last three years.

This new law is most likely going to harm forensic genealogists who labor on military repatriations, heir locaters, and those helping coroner’s locate next-of-kin the most. Since most genealogists are working farther in the past, I don’t think it will have too much effect on us, although I could be wrong.

What the new law should do however, is put all genealogists on notice that we can no longer count on using the SSDI to keep track of not-so-close relatives’ deaths. We will need to stay in closer touch with all those cousins on the family tree. That includes the children of those who might be aging as well as those who might be about to kick the proverbial bucket. This is just one more reason for use to keep the lines of communication open, through traditional methods as well as social media.

Check out Judy Russell’s The Legal Genealogist blog on the closure for more details. Be sure and read the comments.

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