What is it?
This bill would prohibit the Social Security Administration (SSA) from sending any documents that include a complete Social Security Number by mail unless it’s necessary. It would seek to reduce the number of opportunities for a person’s identity to be stolen because their full Social Security Number (SSN) was included in mail they received.
The Commissioner of the SSA would provide Congress with a report detailing which of the agency’s documents have a full SSN on them, when the documents were last updated, and when the number can be partially removed unless the full SSN is deemed necessary. This report would be due twice annually for each of the first six years after this bill’s enactment.
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced this bill in response to a report done by the SSA’s Inspector General which found that in 2015 the agency mailed about 352 million notices — 233 million (or 66 percent) of which included the recipient’s full Social Security number (SSN).
The report also found that the more frequently full SSNs are used the higher the probability they may be stolen and used to commit crimes. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested that federal agencies guard against the unnecessary use of full SSNs in 2007 to protect personal information.
Rep. Johnson explained that SSA needs to stop using full SSNs whenever possible, and that his bill would solve that problem:
“The SSA makes too many Americans vulnerable to identity loss by mailing documents that include a Social Security Number when it’s just not necessary. Americans rightly expect that Social Security isn’t putting their identities at risk when a letter is lost or stolen. Our bill is a commonsense solution to a problem that simply shouldn’t exist.”
This legislation passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a voice vote, and it currently has the support of 23 cosponsors — including 21 Republicans and two Democrats.