One of the first and most valuable resources used by beginning genealogists in their research in the United States is often the Social Security Death Index or SSDI. On the old FamilySearch.org website, the SSDI was one of the very few sources that could be considered original. Nearly all of the other records on this valuable site were user contributed family trees or extracted records. Many researchers got their first real lead on a family member by locating his or her death date and location on the SSDI. The SSDI also listed the dead person's Social Security Number allowing the research to order, for a fee, the original Social Security Application Form.
Even very experienced researchers found the SSDI a quick way to
locate people who lived too recently to show up in any other records due
to modern privacy and buerocratic limitations on records.
The value of this extensive listing extends way beyond the realm of
genealogy however. For example, the SSDI is used by insurance companies
to check whether or not a death claim is valid. If an insurance
beneficiary's claim is not substantiated by a corresponding record in
the SSDI, then there is a reason to investigate further. Attorney's use
the SSDI to find out if someone they are searching for is deceased.
Presently, there is a bill pending in the U.S. Legislature that would
seriously limit the use and value of the SSDI. The proponents of the
bill are reacting, I believe inappropriately, to a situation where
dishonest taxpayers are falsely claiming dependents by using an
unrelated recently deceased child's Social Security Number. This problem
is not an issue with the SSDI, it is a problem with the way the IRS
handles tax returns. In other words, this is not an identity theft
issue, it is a tax issue. A deceased child's Social Security Number is
associated with the numbers of his or her parents. The IRS could simply
verify that a child's Social Security Number matched the parents' number
and the problem would be solved. Rather than requiring this simple
step, politicians want to use the emotionalism of the loss of a child
and the use by another person of the dead child's Social Security Number
as a springboard to make a valuable genealogical record even more
difficult to use and may destroy the use of the SSDI altogether.
Stay tuned for more specific information about this serious issue and what you can do to help. Go to the website of the House Ways and Means Committee for information about hearings that are being held right now about this bill.