Social Security Death Master File

A database of everyone who's died more than 3 calendar years ago.

Crowdfund the Social Security Death Master File

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We are interested in obtaining publishing the “open access” Social Security Death Master File (aka Death Index) — i.e. the one not covering people who died w/in the last 3 years.

It is extremely useful for genealogical and medical research, preventing fraud, etc.

The fields are simple: name (first, middle, last, & suffix); date of birth & death; SSN; validation (Verified: Report verified with a family member or someone acting on behalf of the family / Proof: Death certificate etc observed by SSA); record update date; and record update code (add/change/delete).

Somehow, SSA has never actually made it available. Instead, it only sells the “limited access” DMF through NTIS, at a price of $2.3k + $3.4k/yr.* (The “limited access” version is restricted, and in return it includes people who died in the last 3 years.)

SSA’s latest price estimate to us to provide the “open access” DMF is $5.2k (down from $8.2k).**

Think this is a rather un-“open” approach to providing something that Congress required to be publicly available. We would like to start litigation — but also to also pre-pay the requested $5.2k as a surety, so that they cough up the database now and we have a non-hypothetical fee charging to litigate. It would be very interesting to see, for instance, how exactly they spend 150 hours “searching” for a single database file.

We will make all received information publicly available, for free, both as flat files and through a Google BigQuery database. If we win the litigation, and get a ruling that it has to be made available for free, we will also make our hosted version continuously updated by simply having a regular re-FOIA of the deltas. Otherwise, we’ll do so if we can get the cost of obtaining it funded.

We already have the full 2014 SSA DMF available for free (we pay the transfer costs of ~2–15¢/GB):

Flat files / <gs://fiat-fiendum/ssdmf> BigQuery database fiat-fiendum:ssdmf

Our hosted version has been cleaned up to correct various technical errors & inconsistencies in the raw data (and add convenience fields like “lifespan”), and our raw file is pipe delimited to make bulk processing easier.

Backed by Jon Andersen, Micah Altman, James Jacobs, Charles Haynes, and 11 others.

$1,394.00 raised out of $5,980.00.

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Social Security maintains a database of everyone who has died, aka the Death Master File (DMF).

Federal law restricts access to records for people who died within the last 3 calendar years. 42 USC § 1306c, 15 CFR part 1110.

There is no legal restriction on the “open access” DMF, yet SSA & NTIS have historically refused to provide it. This request asks them to do so.

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