Users of the Social Security Death Master File, including insurers, and employer and retirement industry organizations, are putting on a strong push for interested parties to send letters to the Department of Commerce (DOC) urging prompt action on an interim rule that will ensure access to the DMF for legitimate users while the agency crafts final rules providing a certification process to the data.
In the latest development, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a form for public review and comment that would permit access to the DMF through a self-certification form, according to Michael Freedman, founder of Sentinel Solutions in Philadelphia. The form is titled the “Subscriber Certification Form,” and the comment period on the form ends Monday. “This gives only a few days for the tens of thousands of users of the DMF to get the form and send it in,” Freedman said. Sentinel Solutions deals with life settlement and similar solutions.
Freedman also represents the Coalition for Death Master File Implementation and Reform, in conjunction with the American Continental Group, a D.C.-based lobbying firm. This group is amongst the groups leading a strong employer, congressional and insurer initiative aimed at maintaining seamless access to the DMF.
Currently, the recent Budget Act contains a provision limiting public access to the DMF effective March 26. It requires the DOC to develop a certification program to allow persons meeting certain criteria to have continued access to the DMF. Industries involved in this initiative want the DOC’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) to impose an interim rule by the 26th to ensure continued access while a final certification process is crafted.
Freedman cites a March 14 letter on the issue to OMB signed by 19 senators and two ranking members of the House – Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., a member of the House Democratic leadership and a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The letter makes clear that it was congressional intent that legitimate users of the DMF continue to have access to it. “The purpose of this legislation was to prevent those without merit from accessing the DMF, while still giving legitimate users uninterrupted access.
“The legislative record is clear that this was congressional intent.” The letter includes citations of numerous statements in the Congressional Record noting this intent.
Included among the comments was one from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., when he said on the Senate floor in December that, “It was never the intent of this Senator or the cosponsors to deny access to the DMF by the people who need it for legitimate purposes.” Nelson said the “language in this budget deal would include the file in the Freedom of Information Act exemptions so that it will not be available to just anyone off the street.”
Earlier this week, the American Benefits Council (ABC) led a group of 15 employer and retirement industry organizations which sent a comment letter urging the NTIS to provide retirement plans (and their service providers) with uninterrupted access to the DMF.
The letter said that, “Simple and inexpensive access to the DMF information is critical to the efficient functioning of all types of retirement plans.” It also notes that the request for information (RFI) on how the certification process should be crafted “recognized this need by pointing out access is necessary for ‘others responsible for verifying deceased person(s) in support of fulfillment of benefits to their beneficiaries.’”
In a statement, ABC officials said the comment letter was responding to a RFI issued by NTIS March 3. That followed a Jan. 6 clarification which said that access to the DMF would continue uninterrupted pending the establishment of a certification process. “Although the RFI reiterated this clarification, the ABC has learned that NTIS is being pressured to close access to the DMF on March 26, the effective date of the legislation,” the statement said.
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