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The Social Security Administration’s Death Data: In Brief

CRS report via LC – The Social Security Administration’s Death Data: In Brief, Updated January 11, 2021: “The Social Security Administration (SSA) acquires and maintains death data to administer the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, including preventing the improper payment of benefits to deceased individuals and identifying individuals who are potentially eligible for survivor benefits. SSA collects death data from sources such as state vital statistics bureaus, funeral home directors, family members, and financial institutions and adds about2.9million new death reports to its records each year. These records prevent over $50 million in Social Security and SSI improper payments each month. SSA, under authority granted and limitations imposed by the Social Security Act,shares its death information with qualifying federal and state agencies for particular programmatic purposes and with certain external parties for research and statistical purposes. SSA also provides a limited extract of its death data, referred to as the Death Master File (DMF), to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which in turn distributes it to authorized users. The DMF contains only those death records obtained from non-state sources. Until the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260),on December 27, 2020, SSA did not have legal authority to share its full file of death information(which includes state-reported deaths) with the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay (DNP) portal, a centralized hub that would permit access by numerous federal agencies. However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, includes a requirement for SSA to share its full file of death information (including state-reported death data) with DNP for a period of three years beginning three years after enactment and also provides for recipient agencies (including DNP) to fully reimburse SSA for the cost of both obtaining and sharing death data…”

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