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My Personal Testimony Submitted to the Social Security Subcommittee

What follows is the text of the letter I sent to the subcommittee whose hearing two weeks ago did not permit genealogists to testify in person. This is my personal letter which I submitted as a result of my work and my life. It does not represent the Mass. Gen. Council's opinion and was not pre-approved in any way. Today was the last day to submit testimony online. Did you submit testimony?

Have you contacted your own Congressman or Senator about this? Now is the time to do that! Please let us know in the comments what you've been doing to make your own opinions and your voice heard.

Barbara Jean Mathews
Certified Genealogist*
Post Office Box 399
, MA 02420

February 16, 2012

Testimony Submitted to the
Hearing on Accuracy and Uses of the
Social Security Administration’s Death Master File


 Dear Mr. Johnson and Subcommittee Members,

 I am offering this testimony as a professional genealogist who has worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense performing the job of identifying Next of Kin as well as yDNA and mtDNA contributors for identification purposes.

 I could not have done this work successfully with my colleague Linda Abrams were it not for our access to the Death Master File. Without the ability to search nation-wide for the deaths of the parents of the soldiers and airmen, we would not have been able to find their siblings, their DNA matches, or their next of kin. It is important that access to this file continue. It is also important that requests for SS5 information under FOIA (for which we pay a good fee) show us the parents of the person so that we can insure that we have found the correct person in the file.

 Mr. Agin’s pain was apparent as was his desire to spare other parents the pain that he and his wife had when they were unable easily to take the medical deduction for their daughter’s expenses. I know that my husband and I once had to do this to the tune of $110,000 in one year and $40,000 in the next year for our daughter’s significant illness and subsequent very long recovery. That parents can take this deduction is vitally important. That Mr. Agin, the innocent party, had to prove that he was his daughter’s parent is inexcusable. However, it is important to point out that Mr. Agin’s identification of the Death Master File as the conduit for this was speculative at best.

 Frankly, I find that the testimony offered by others at the hearing was disingenuous. The Social Security Administration has a widely recognized problem that the witnesses failed to address. While fewer than 20 dead children were the targets of ID thieves taking them as deductions, it is estimated that nearly 140,000 living children each year are just such targets. This frightful mess has been covered within the last year in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and on the Today Show and Fox television.

 It is time your subcommittee required the SSA to protect the identities of all children. Nearly 10,000 times as many living children as dead children have their identities stolen. The SSA must change the way it does business and it must use 21st Century solutions. With nearly 8% of all living children the victims of this widespread practice, to fail to hold the SSA accountable is inexcusable. This has nothing to do with the Death Master File.

 Respectfully submitted, Barbara J. Mathews, CG

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