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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

Social Security Administration - A Report to Congress on Sources of and Access to Death Data



The mission of the Social Security Administration (SSA) is to provide quality Social Security services to the public. It collects death data, including death data from state vital records offices, to administer its programs. It also shares state death data with federal benefits paying agencies under Section 205(r) of the Social Security Act for purposes of preventing improper payments to deceased individuals. SSA contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct an independent study of the current and potential sources for, and provision of access to, state death data for limited use by federal agencies and programs for purposes of program administration and payment integrity.

Project Description

Per Section 802 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, the Academy was pleased to conduct a Study and Report to Congress on the Sources of and Access to State Death Data. The study was performed in consultation with SSA, the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, in accordance with Section 802. As required by the Appropriations Act, the Academy conducted an:

  1. “Analysis of the following:
    • The sources and owners of the death data.
    • The timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of State-owned death data, including the process for correcting inaccuracies.
    • Federal and State laws that may affect legal access to, and protections for, State-owned death data.
    • Federalism and the appropriate roles of the relevant Federal and State entities, including States' role in recording vital records and the core mission and responsibility of any Federal agency involved.
    • The costs incurred for each step of the death data collection, management, protection (legal and otherwise), and transmission processes, and the challenges to adequate funding of State vital records programs.
    • Unmet needs (if any) for these data among Federal agencies or programs.
    • Options for providing Federal agencies with limited access to State-owned death data, including Federal agencies contracting directly with States for access to such data or distribution of such data via the Commissioner of Social Security or another Federal agency or program, and corresponding options for appropriate reimbursement structures.
  2. An assessment of the strengths and limitations of the options for distribution and reimbursement identified in paragraph (1)(G).”

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Final Report

Study Fellows