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Social Security Administration Death Master File
 
The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) contains over 65 million records created from SSA payment records. This September 2002 release includes the following information on each decedent, if the data are available to the SSA: social security number, name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence (2/88 and prior), ZIP code of last residence, and ZIP code of lump sum payment. Each update of the DMF includes corrections to old data as well as additional names. The SSA does not have a death record for all persons; therefore, SSA does not guarantee the veracity of the file. Thus, the absence of a particular person is not proof this person is alive.

One of the disadvantages of the current Social Security numbering system is that the agency is not always immediately notified upon the death of an individual. There appears to be no requirement for local officials to notify SSA when someone dies. Despite their best intentions, having incomplete and incorrect information makes it very difficult for the Social Security Administration to issue an accurate Death Master File.

This database contains names and basic information about persons with Social Security numbers whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. A survivor requesting death benefits may have reported the death to SSA. It may have been reported to stop Social Security benefits to the deceased. Funeral homes often report deaths to the SSA as a service to family members. Beginning in 1962, the SSA began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits. About 98 percent of the people in the SSDMF died after 1962, but a few death dates go back as far as 1937. Legal aliens in the U.S. can obtain a Social Security card, so their names may appear in the DMF, if their deaths were reported. Some 400,000 railroad retirees are also included in the DMF.

Abstract Objectives Internet sources that use the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Death Master File have demonstrated high sensitivity among males for detection of mortality status in comparisons to the National Death Index, but the sensitivity has not been investigated for other demographic groups. Methods The authors used the SSA Death Master File to determine the mortality status of 374 decedents from the ongoing Patient Outcomes Study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center whose deaths were confirmed by physicians using hospital records. Results Decedents identified by the SSA Death Master File were significantly older than those not identified. Foreign-born decedents were significantly less likely to be identified as dead than American-born decedents. Gender and marital status were not significant factors for identification by the SSA Death Master File. Conclusion the results of this study suggest that Internet sources may be used as an inexpensive and effective tool for determination of mortality status. However, among certain populations use of these databases alone may provide incomplete information.
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