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NERGC 2015 Navigating the Past: Sailing into the Future
Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records
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Every indication so far is that this year will again see efforts to close the SSDI in two ways: first by legislation to close it for three years to all but fraud investigators; second by legislation to make the Freedom of Information Act inapplicable to the Social Security Administration (it was by FOIA that the SSDI was opened two decades ago). Either method would work against genealogists.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Sam Johnson (R TX 3) was reappointed chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The announcement can be read at http://samjohnson.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=316913.
At this time, at least one bill has been filed using text that would close the SSDI for two to three years. Rep. Richard Nugent (R FL 11) filed this bill, known as H.R.295. You can use the Library of Congress THOMAS portal to find the bill’s text and to track its passage at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas. Select “bill number” and type in HR295. The resulting page will provide many access points: to the bill text, to the current committee assignments, etc.
Rep. Mike Capuano (D MA 7) is planning to submit a similar bill. His office has been approached by immigration and tax people in government to submit a bill covering their issues. We were able to contact his Issues Director Kate Auspitz in order to pass on information showing that the core issue is inter-agency communication rather than access to the social security numbers of dead people. We made a case for genealogical access during the critical three-year waiting period for compassionate reasons.
While Congressman Capuano sees merit in our arguments, we will need to make those arguments again at the committee hearings in order to have change happen. We explained that such testimony had been purposefully cut off last year. His office pointed out that he is in the political minority in the House and not able to force a committee chair to permit our testimony. We need to keep our community ready to submit testimony and to be able to articulate the issues when the time comes. So how do we learn that?