SSDMF residence codes

Reclaim The Records filed this request with the Social Security Administration of the United States of America.
Tracking #

SSA-2022-010619

Due June 27, 2022
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Reclaim The Records

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Brooke Schreier Ganz and I am the founder and president of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Reclaim The Records. We are a group of genealogists, journalists, historians, teachers, open data advocates, and others who use Freedom of Information laws to acquire genealogically and historically important records from government agencies, and we then make the images or data available to the public, free of charge.

The Social Security Death Master File (SSDMF) has been maintained by your agency for decades, and is sometimes colloquially referred to as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) when it is placed on commercial genealogy websites. It has or had a field in the data file for a two-character "state/country code of residence" for each row (person) in the file. The official text documentation created by your agency and distributed along with the SSDMF dataset helps users make sense of the format and fields in this dataset, including this "state/country code of residence" field. It assigns various states to codes 01 through 53, it assigns New York City to code 54; and it assigns various other countries and regions in the world to codes 55 through 65, as well as code 97.

But the documentation does not provide any information about any *other* codes or letters or characters that might be listed in that two-character field in your dataset. For example, it does not explain the meaning behind the codes 66 through 96, nor 98 through 99, nor any other characters or abbreviations that might be found in that field such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., although all of these were or are included in the SSDMF data file you are distributing.

Instead, the official Social Security Administration documentation merely has the following paragraph describing this field:

"NOTE: IF ANY OTHER VALUES [besides 01-65 or 97] ARE SHOWN IN THESE TWO CODE POSITIONS, YOU SHOULD IGNORE THEM. FOR YOUR PURPOSES, IT MEANS THAT SSA DOES NOT HAVE A STATE/COUNTRY CODE FOR YOU."

This seems odd, because as noted, there certainly are other values in this field being used by your agency in this very large and very important national dataset, which your agency has been distributing for decades and also maintains to the present day. Therefore, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), our organization is hereby making a request is about those withheld codes' meaning, and the complete administrative record of their censorship.

Please provide to us all documentation about the various codes used in this two-character field of the SSDMF dataset, the field usually used for "state/country code of residence", other than the already-explainable codes 01-65 or code 97. To be more specific, we hereby request:

1. the most comprehensive record(s) you hold that document the residence code field as used or previously used in the SSDMF, including the versions of the SSDMF that were distributed prior to November 1, 2011, and please *include* the meanings of all residence codes other than 01-65 or 97 that were or are ever used; and

2. all records about:
2a. ...residence codes 66-96, 98-99, and any other letters or characters such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., that were or are used in this field
2b. ...the omission / censorship of those non-documented codes from any record, including the SSDMF record specifications documentation, and any other public record; or
2c. ...the phrase quoted in the section above, which is used in your documentation, including any variations or prior iterations thereof.

We expect that part 2a will include, for instance, all manuals for government employees whose job relates or related to the entry, modification, and/or use of the SSDMF codes, such that the employee would have had to know the meaning of residence codes 66-96, 98-99, "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE" or any other codes or characters; any standardization guides; any technical manuals or specifications or documentation or data dictionaries; and any similar records.

Please note that FOIA requires you to service the maximum extent of our request that can be done via e.g. partial redaction of exempt material. If you believe some portions of a record to be exempt because it contains Sensitive Security Information (SSI, 49 CFR 15 & 1520) or classified information (18 USC 798), please provide a version of the record redacted to the minimum extent necessary to remove exempt information (e.g. per 49 CFR 1520.15), along with adequate information to describe the reason for each specific exemption.

Upon receipt, and in every followup response to this request, please state or restate your tracking number(s) for this request, as well as your specific estimated completion date(s), as per 5 USC 552(a)(7).

This request is a qualified request for journalistic, public interest purposes. As such, we request fully waived fees, including both public interest fee waiver and journalistic fee waiver:

1. Reclaim The Records (RTR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, organized for charitable, educational, scientific, and/or literary purposes. This request is a part of RTR's bona fide educational and scientific purpose activities, which are public interest purposes as a matter of law.

2. RTR's actions in matters such as this request are non-commercial.

3. Both RTR as an organization, and I as an individual, are representatives of the news media and entitled to waiver of all search fees.

4. We intend and are able to host and publish all received records online to the general public at no charge, as well to publish highlights, analyses, summaries, commentaries, and other creative, original journalistic and scientific work about responsive records through multiple online publications, including our mailing lists and social media presence, as part of RTR's work.

5. The records requested are of significant public interest, entitled to waiver of all duplication fees, since
a. they are requested for 501(c)(3) public interest purposes;
b. as above, we both are able and intend to disseminate the files widely;
c. they would contribute greatly to the public understanding of the operations and activities of your agency, in that they are records that directly describe agency operations and activities, as well as the issues and matters described at the top of this letter;
d. they are not currently readily available; and
e. they are likely to be requested by others.

We would prefer that all files related to the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available, or a file transfer system such as Dropbox if available, or by CD-ROM or portable USB drive if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. We look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Brooke Schreier Ganz, on behalf of Reclaim The Records
http://www.reclaimtherecords.org/

From: Social Security Administration

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/submissionDetails?trackingNumber=SSA-2022-010619&type=request)

* Tracking Number: SSA-2022-010619
* Requester Name:
Brooke Schreier Ganz
* Date Submitted: 05/31/2022
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description:
To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Brooke Schreier Ganz and I am the founder and president of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Reclaim The Records. We are a group of genealogists, journalists, historians, teachers, open data advocates, and others who use Freedom of Information laws to acquire genealogically and historically important records from government agencies, and we then make the images or data available to the public, free of charge.

The Social Security Death Master File (SSDMF) has been maintained by your agency for decades, and is sometimes colloquially referred to as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) when it is placed on commercial genealogy websites. It has or had a field in the data file for a two-character "state/country code of residence" for each row (person) in the file. The official text documentation created by your agency and distributed along with the SSDMF dataset helps users make sense of the format and fields in this dataset, including this "state/country code of residence" field. It assigns various states to codes 01 through 53, it assigns New York City to code 54; and it assigns various other countries and regions in the world to codes 55 through 65, as well as code 97.

But the documentation does not provide any information about any *other* codes or letters or characters that might be listed in that two-character field in your dataset. For example, it does not explain the meaning behind the codes 66 through 96, nor 98 through 99, nor any other characters or abbreviations that might be found in that field such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., although all of these were or are included in the SSDMF data file you are distributing.

Instead, the official Social Security Administration documentation merely has the following paragraph describing this field:

"NOTE: IF ANY OTHER VALUES [besides 01-65 or 97] ARE SHOWN IN THESE TWO CODE POSITIONS, YOU SHOULD IGNORE THEM. FOR YOUR PURPOSES, IT MEANS THAT SSA DOES NOT HAVE A STATE/COUNTRY CODE FOR YOU."

This seems odd, because as noted, there certainly are other values in this field being used by your agency in this very large and very important national dataset, which your agency has been distributing for decades and also maintains to the present day. Therefore, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), our organization is hereby making a request is about those withheld codes' meaning, and the complete administrative record of their censorship.

Please provide to us all documentation about the various codes used in this two-character field of the SSDMF dataset, the field usually used for "state/country code of residence", other than the already-explainable codes 01-65 or code 97. To be more specific, we hereby request:

1. the most comprehensive record(s) you hold that document the residence code field as used or previously used in the SSDMF, including the versions of the SSDMF that were distributed prior to November 1, 2011, and please *include* the meanings of all residence codes other than 01-65 or 97 that were or are ever used; and

2. all records about:
2a. ...residence codes 66-96, 98-99, and any other letters or characters such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., that were or are used in this field
2b. ...the omission / censorship of those non-documented codes from any record, including the SSDMF record specifications documentation, and any other public record; or
2c. ...the phrase quoted in the section above, which is used in your documentation, including any variations or prior iterations thereof.

We expect that part 2a will include, for instance, all manuals for government employees whose job relates or related to the entry, modification, and/or use of the SSDMF codes, such that the employee would have had to know the meaning of residence codes 66-96, 98-99, "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE" or any other codes or characters; any standardization guides; any technical manuals or specifications or documentation or data dictionaries; and any similar records.

Please note that FOIA requires you to service the maximum extent of our request that can be done via e.g. partial redaction of exempt material. If you believe some portions of a record to be exempt because it contains Sensitive Security Information (SSI, 49 CFR 15 & 1520) or classified information (18 USC 798), please provide a version of the record redacted to the minimum extent necessary to remove exempt information (e.g. per 49 CFR 1520.15), along with adequate information to describe the reason for each specific exemption.

Upon receipt, and in every followup response to this request, please state or restate your tracking number(s) for this request, as well as your specific estimated completion date(s), as per 5 USC 552(a)(7).

This request is a qualified request for journalistic, public interest purposes. As such, we request fully waived fees, including both public interest fee waiver and journalistic fee waiver:

1. Reclaim The Records (RTR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, organized for charitable, educational, scientific, and/or literary purposes. This request is a part of RTR's bona fide educational and scientific purpose activities, which are public interest purposes as a matter of law.

2. RTR's actions in matters such as this request are non-commercial.

3. Both RTR as an organization, and I as an individual, are representatives of the news media and entitled to waiver of all search fees.

4. We intend and are able to host and publish all received records online to the general public at no charge, as well to publish highlights, analyses, summaries, commentaries, and other creative, original journalistic and scientific work about responsive records through multiple online publications, including our mailing lists and social media presence, as part of RTR's work.

5. The records requested are of significant public interest, entitled to waiver of all duplication fees, since
a. they are requested for 501(c)(3) public interest purposes;
b. as above, we both are able and intend to disseminate the files widely;
c. they would contribute greatly to the public understanding of the operations and activities of your agency, in that they are records that directly describe agency operations and activities, as well as the issues and matters described at the top of this letter;
d. they are not currently readily available; and
e. they are likely to be requested by others.

We would prefer that all files related to the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available, or a file transfer system such as Dropbox if available, or by CD-ROM or portable USB drive if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. We look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Brooke Schreier Ganz, on behalf of Reclaim The Records
http://www.reclaimtherecords.org/

Upload documents directly: https://www.muckrock.com/

From: Social Security Administration

Dear Ms. Ganz:
Please see our attached fee waiver response for your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, SSA-2022-010619.
Please do not reply to this email correspondence.  If you have an account with FOIAonline, you can correspond directly with us by logging into your account.  If you need to correspond with us regarding your FOIA request but do not have an account with FOIAonline, please send your correspondence to FOIA.Public.Liaison@ssa.gov.  The FOIA Public Liaison mailbox was created to assist the public with their FOIA requests, as well as to provide assistance to individuals requesting access to their own records under the Privacy Act.  When you email this mailbox, we encourage you to limit the amount of personally identifiable information you provide in your email correspondence.  While SSA operates within a secure network, we have no control of the data we receive while it is in transit to or from our FOIA Public Liaison mailbox.  Please include your FOIA tracking number in your email. (mailto:FOIA.Public.Liaison@ssa.gov)
Sincerely,
The FOIA Team
Social Security Administration

From: Social Security Administration

Your request for Fee Waiver for the FOIA request SSA-2022-010619 has been
denied.
Additional details for this request are as follows:

* Request Created on:
05/31/2022
* Request Description:
To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Brooke Schreier Ganz and I am the founder and president of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Reclaim The Records. We are a group of genealogists, journalists, historians, teachers, open data advocates, and others who use Freedom of Information laws to acquire genealogically and historically important records from government agencies, and we then make the images or data available to the public, free of charge.

The Social Security Death Master File (SSDMF) has been maintained by your agency for decades, and is sometimes colloquially referred to as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) when it is placed on commercial genealogy websites. It has or had a field in the data file for a two-character "state/country code of residence" for each row (person) in the file. The official text documentation created by your agency and distributed along with the SSDMF dataset helps users make sense of the format and fields in this dataset, including this "state/country code of residence" field. It assigns various states to codes 01 through 53, it assigns New York City to code 54; and it assigns various other countries and regions in the world to codes 55 through 65, as well as code 97.

But the documentation does not provide any information about any *other* codes or letters or characters that might be listed in that two-character field in your dataset. For example, it does not explain the meaning behind the codes 66 through 96, nor 98 through 99, nor any other characters or abbreviations that might be found in that field such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., although all of these were or are included in the SSDMF data file you are distributing.

Instead, the official Social Security Administration documentation merely has the following paragraph describing this field:

"NOTE: IF ANY OTHER VALUES [besides 01-65 or 97] ARE SHOWN IN THESE TWO CODE POSITIONS, YOU SHOULD IGNORE THEM. FOR YOUR PURPOSES, IT MEANS THAT SSA DOES NOT HAVE A STATE/COUNTRY CODE FOR YOU."

This seems odd, because as noted, there certainly are other values in this field being used by your agency in this very large and very important national dataset, which your agency has been distributing for decades and also maintains to the present day. Therefore, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), our organization is hereby making a request is about those withheld codes' meaning, and the complete administrative record of their censorship.

Please provide to us all documentation about the various codes used in this two-character field of the SSDMF dataset, the field usually used for "state/country code of residence", other than the already-explainable codes 01-65 or code 97. To be more specific, we hereby request:

1. the most comprehensive record(s) you hold that document the residence code field as used or previously used in the SSDMF, including the versions of the SSDMF that were distributed prior to November 1, 2011, and please *include* the meanings of all residence codes other than 01-65 or 97 that were or are ever used; and

2. all records about:
2a. ...residence codes 66-96, 98-99, and any other letters or characters such as "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE", etc., that were or are used in this field
2b. ...the omission / censorship of those non-documented codes from any record, including the SSDMF record specifications documentation, and any other public record; or
2c. ...the phrase quoted in the section above, which is used in your documentation, including any variations or prior iterations thereof.

We expect that part 2a will include, for instance, all manuals for government employees whose job relates or related to the entry, modification, and/or use of the SSDMF codes, such that the employee would have had to know the meaning of residence codes 66-96, 98-99, "VA" or "BX" or "IC" or "PE" or any other codes or characters; any standardization guides; any technical manuals or specifications or documentation or data dictionaries; and any similar records.

Please note that FOIA requires you to service the maximum extent of our request that can be done via e.g. partial redaction of exempt material. If you believe some portions of a record to be exempt because it contains Sensitive Security Information (SSI, 49 CFR 15 & 1520) or classified information (18 USC 798), please provide a version of the record redacted to the minimum extent necessary to remove exempt information (e.g. per 49 CFR 1520.15), along with adequate information to describe the reason for each specific exemption.

Upon receipt, and in every followup response to this request, please state or restate your tracking number(s) for this request, as well as your specific estimated completion date(s), as per 5 USC 552(a)(7).

This request is a qualified request for journalistic, public interest purposes. As such, we request fully waived fees, including both public interest fee waiver and journalistic fee waiver:

1. Reclaim The Records (RTR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, organized for charitable, educational, scientific, and/or literary purposes. This request is a part of RTR's bona fide educational and scientific purpose activities, which are public interest purposes as a matter of law.

2. RTR's actions in matters such as this request are non-commercial.

3. Both RTR as an organization, and I as an individual, are representatives of the news media and entitled to waiver of all search fees.

4. We intend and are able to host and publish all received records online to the general public at no charge, as well to publish highlights, analyses, summaries, commentaries, and other creative, original journalistic and scientific work about responsive records through multiple online publications, including our mailing lists and social media presence, as part of RTR's work.

5. The records requested are of significant public interest, entitled to waiver of all duplication fees, since
a. they are requested for 501(c)(3) public interest purposes;
b. as above, we both are able and intend to disseminate the files widely;
c. they would contribute greatly to the public understanding of the operations and activities of your agency, in that they are records that directly describe agency operations and activities, as well as the issues and matters described at the top of this letter;
d. they are not currently readily available; and
e. they are likely to be requested by others.

We would prefer that all files related to the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available, or a file transfer system such as Dropbox if available, or by CD-ROM or portable USB drive if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. We look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Brooke Schreier Ganz, on behalf of Reclaim The Records
http://www.reclaimtherecords.org/

Upload documents directly: https://www.muckrock.com/
* Fee Waiver Original Justification:
This request is a qualified request for journalistic, public interest purposes. As such, we request fully waived fees, including both public interest fee waiver and journalistic fee waiver:

1. Reclaim The Records (RTR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, organized for charitable, educational, scientific, and/or literary purposes. This request is a part of RTR's bona fide educational and scientific purpose activities, which are public interest purposes as a matter of law.

2. RTR's actions in matters such as this request are non-commercial.

3. Both RTR as an organization, and I as an individual, are representatives of the news media and entitled to waiver of all search fees.

4. We intend and are able to host and publish all received records online to the general public at no charge, as well to publish highlights, analyses, summaries, commentaries, and other creative, original journalistic and scientific work about responsive records through multiple online publications, including our mailing lists and social media presence, as part of RTR's work.

5. The records requested are of significant public interest, entitled to waiver of all duplication fees, since
a. they are requested for 501(c)(3) public interest purposes;
b. as above, we both are able and intend to disseminate the files widely;
c. they would contribute greatly to the public understanding of the operations and activities of your agency, in that they are records that directly describe agency operations and activities, as well as the issues and matters described at the top of this letter;
d. they are not currently readily available; and
e. they are likely to be requested by others.
* Fee Waiver Disposition Reason:
Notice sent

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