Act Now to Protect States' Rights over Death Data!
On February 5, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act (H.R. 4929 and S. 2374) was introduced in both the House and Senate. This legislation would amend Section 205(r) of the Social Security Act, which governs the sharing of jurisdictions' death data with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and SSA's sharing of our data on a limited basis with other federal agencies to facilitate the administration of federal benefit programs. To review, the vital records jurisdictions have had a longstanding history with SSA via contract to share administrative data and, per state laws, re-release of that data is prohibited. H.R. 4929 and S. 2374 each propose expanding SSA's sharing of our death data to all federal and state entities.
Since 2011, NAPHSIS has been working to stop this and other legislation to expand access to jurisdictions' death data through SSA. SSA is not a statistical agency and should not be responsible for the sharing of jurisdictions' death data across the federal government, assuring its security, and paying the jurisdictions' for the expanded use. We have urged lawmakers and federal agencies to work directly with the jurisdictions to facilitate access to death data, preferably through EVVE, but if not, through direct data use agreements with the federal agencies in the same way the jurisdictions currently share data with SSA.
NAPHSIS has already sent letters expressing our concerns about this new legislation to the relevant House and Senate committees and the co-sponsoring Members of Congress (see House letter here and see Senate letter here). We are very concerned that this new legislation will be enacted this year and if it is, federal agencies will never use EVVE Fact of Death once they have access to jurisdictions' death data through SSA.
That's why we ask that your vital records office/state health department take this opportunity to share your concerns with Members of Congress NOW. We have drafted sample letters to be sent on your department's letterhead to your state's lawmakers in the House and the Senate (see House template here and see Senate template here). Please note these are templates and the language is just a suggestion-we urge you to customize it to your style and state experience.
If you are able to send a letter, please send it to all the Representatives and Senators for your state. Letters from the following states will be particularly helpful, since these are the states represented by the Chairmen and Ranking Members on the relevant House and Senate committees: Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. But letters from any and all jurisdictions are welcome!
We also ask that you send copies of all letters to myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) and our consultant, Emily Holubowich (email@example.com), so the letters can be forwarded to the relevant House and Senate committee staff.
Time is of the essence, so please try to send the letters as soon as possible. We will share more information about the committees' consideration of the legislation as we know more.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Shawna Webster, CAE