A lot of people look for these reports and depend on them. Other medical researchers, including those conducting long-term federally financed studies of cancer and cardiovascular treatments, said the changes imposed last November were now slowing their work significantly. And a spokesman for financial industries like life insurance , banking and credit services said the change was making it more difficult to detect identity thieves who steal names and Social Security numbers from the deceased. The Social Security Death Master File is an index of 90 million deaths that have been reported to the agency over 75 years by survivors, hospitals, funeral homes and state offices.
The listings include names, Social Security numbers and dates of death. The agency did not make the information public until , after a legal ruling required that the data be disclosed. The list is updated weekly, and although it is neither comprehensive nor percent accurate, it is considered the most current record of deaths nationwide, making it a rich trove for researchers.
It is also far more affordable for researchers than the leading alternative, a death index kept by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, while more complete, is typically 14 months to 18 months out of date. For a decade, the Social Security master file routinely included records provided by the states. But last year, after reports that the widespread availability of death records was facilitating identity theft, the Social Security Administration determined that it had been improperly releasing the state records as part of the file.
Under a law, the agency concluded, those state records — but only those records — were exempted from public disclosure.
They could, however, be made available to other federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that needed them to determine whether to pay or discontinue benefits. As a result, four million deaths were expunged from the publicly available master file last November. Social Security officials expect the number of deaths disclosed each year — 2.
For epidemiologists, it can be critical to learn quickly when the subject of a study has died so that details can be gathered while memories and records are fresh. Without an updated national index, it can be difficult to track those who have moved repeatedly or perhaps died alone. Jesse D. Schold, a health researcher at the Cleveland Clinic , said the holes in the master file, which will only grow larger, had already compromised his investigation into mortality rates among living kidney donors.
Confirming deaths of subjects by surveying every state would be prohibitively burdensome, he said. And using the index compiled by the C. Genealogy Web sites make the data available on the Internet at little or no cost. Schold said. View all New York Times newsletters. Over six decades, the study has examined the causes and effects of heart disease in three generations of subjects who were originally from the same town in Massachusetts.
Many are dying off. Splansky said. Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said researchers would simply have to collect the data from the states. Dr Song reported receiving other from Sanofi during the conduct of the study and outside of the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported. Ms Campbell did not receive additional compensation for her contribution, apart from her employment at the institution where this study was conducted.
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Social Security Death Index (SSDI) Search | Genealogy Bank
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Social Security Death Index
Researchers Wring Hands as U.S. Clamps Down on Death Record Access
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