Congress Focuses on Protecting Use of Death Master File Records

April 15, 2012 by Zack Smith

The Death Master File (DMF) is a database operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that contains over 87 million records with information on persons who had Social Security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA from 1962 to the present. The DMF is considered a public document under the Freedom of Information Act, and monthly and weekly updates of the file are made available through the Department of Commerce.

Congress is considering legislation that would limit access to the DMF to only qualified entities.   For example, government agencies, credit reporting agencies, financial institutions and medical organizations use the DMF to verify death and prevent identity fraud.

At a hearing before the House Social Security Subcommittee in early February, members of the panel heard from a variety of witnesses who said that more needs to be done to secure DMF records from misuse while also recognizing the importance of ensuring access for legitimate uses.

Photo: Shutterstock

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