March 19, 2014
NTIS Proposes Application for Access to Death Master File
The National Technical Information Service (NTIS), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has released a proposed certification form for entities that wish to retain access to the Death Master File (DMF). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is now accepting feedback on the proposed form at OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov.
The deadline for comments to OMB on this form is March 24, a mere five days after its posting. It is possible that the DMF will be closed to outside parties on March 26 under a provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.
As we have previously reported, the DMF is a list of deceased individuals maintained by the Social Security Administration and distributed through the Commerce Department. These records contain the full name, Social Security number, date of birth and date of death for listed decedents, updated weekly. Defined benefit and defined contribution plans commonly use these files for administrative purposes, such as determining when benefits to a deceased participant should be terminated or when a payment should be made to a surviving beneficiary.
However, under the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Secretary of Commerce "shall not disclose to any person information contained on the [DMF] with respect to any deceased individual at any time during the 3-calendar-year period beginning on the date of the individual's death, unless such person is certified" under a program to be established by the Secretary of Commerce. Only parties that have "a fraud prevention interest or other legitimate need for the information and agree to maintain the information under safeguards similar to those required of Federal agencies that receive return information" may apply for certification.
While the NTIS has indicated in a January 6 web posting and a March 3 Request for Information that access to the DMF would continue uninterrupted pending the establishment of a certification process, the Council has learned that NTIS is being pressured to close access to the DMF on March 26, the effective date under the legislation.
The Council has organized group letters (on behalf of the employer community and the retirement industry) to the Commerce Department and to NTIS urging uninterrupted access to the DMF, noting its importance for efficient retirement plan administration.
The Council will consider filing comments with OMB. To provide input or for more information, contact Jan Jacobson, senior counsel, retirement policy, at (202) 289-6700.