FOIA response to SS5 query #general


Having earlier written an e-mail to Darrell Blevins earlier this month
concerning a five month wait for several SS5's, when I finally received
them I wrote to let him know. I received the following in reply.
I asked his permission to send to the discussion group and his response
to my request is also included.
Linda Greenman


Dear Linda,

I am glad you did finally get the documents you requested. I know it can
be frustrating having to wait so long for things like this. Being an
amateur genealogist myself, I understand what it means to wait for the
record that confirms a relationship or date or maybe breaks through one
of our brick walls.

I have seen a number of posts on rootsweb mail lists that specifically
mention me and the slow service people are encountering in obtaining these
SS-5s. On a number of occasions, I have been tempted to reply to these and
try to explain some of the circumstances behind this slow service. I havn't
done that yet, but when I received you e-mail I thought I would take this
opportunity to make an explanation. And basically it is this: The Social
Security Administration (SSA) is fundamentally different >from most of the
organizations genealogists depend on to furnish documents.

The mission of SSA is to determine a persons eligibility to a benefit and
to pay that benefit. When an individual dies, leaving a dependent spouse
and young children, we want to pay that spouse a survivor's benefit as soon
as possible. Likewise for disabled people and retirees. We accumulate
records to allow us to carry out this mission. It just happens that some
of these records are valuable for genealogical purposes and that puts us in
a sometimes difficult situation. We must carry out our obligations under
the federal freedom of information act to make these records available, but
our first priority will always be to accomplish the primary goal of the
agency and that is where the agency concentrates its resources.

Contrast this with the situation of the National Archives and state vital
records agencies and their primary missions which relate more directly to
providing records to the public. Also, consider that SSA, like most
federal agencies, has undergone significant staff reductions over the past
decade and these genealogy based requests are growing each year (about
20,000 last year).

It bothers me that we are unable to provide the kind of service that,
ideally, we would like to provide to people like yourself. I am trying
to do some things here that will help improve service, but it is unlikely
results will be noticeable for at least another year. Hopefully, this
won't seem like a lot of excuses to you. I meant it as an honest

Hope the SS-5s were helpful.

Darrell Blevins


Linda, that would be fine; posting to the listserv.


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