SS#s of those passed on?
November 2, 2005 9:53 PM   Subscribe

How would one go about finding out the Social Security number of a deceased relative?

This is for a co-worker of mine, whom I'll call Wendy. Wendy's father passed away about seven years ago. Wendy's mother, in her mid-sixties at the time, has since remarried. She has just recently learned (from the SSA) that she is eligible to draw on her former husband's Social Security benefits, but first she needs to fill out the appropriate paperwork. Neither Wendy, her sister, nor their mother has any record of the father's Social Security number. The sister did his final income tax returns, but has since lost them. They have his military discharge papers, but they do not include his SS#. How else can they obtain his number, and who must make the request?

My thoughts so far: the SSA, the IRS, former employers, other military records, bank records, property titles. I'd like suggestions (thoughts/opinions) or instructions ("I've done this before"). Thanks.
posted by attercoppe to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Best answer: Google the Social Security Death Index. There are various versions of it online — essentially, SSNs become public record at the time of death. Usually SSDI records don't make it online until six months or so after the time of death, but that doesn't sound like it will cause a problem here.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:57 PM on November 2, 2005

Best answer: Try Rootsweb. There's a fairly good chance it's in there.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 PM on November 2, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, I'm shocked. I told my co-worker that there was most likely no way to get it online. I thought SS#s were reissued after deaths, I didn't know they were available that way. Couldn't they be used for identity theft type purposes?
posted by attercoppe at 11:30 PM on November 2, 2005

Im guessing that while they are not re-issued, they are probably discontinued, if you will. So Identity Theft would be much harder..
posted by JokingClown at 11:48 PM on November 2, 2005

JokingClown: If they haven't been reissued yet, they will be. There are only enough SSN's for four times the number of Americans alive today.
posted by aubilenon at 3:21 AM on November 3, 2005

There are only enough SSN's for four times the number of Americans alive today.

Wouldn't there be 10^10 possibilities? That's 10 billion by my count. I realize SS numbers currently start with a 6 or lower and the rest are tax ids for immigrants and corporations, but one of us is off by an order of magnitude. Which might be me.
posted by yerfatma at 4:35 AM on November 3, 2005

10^9, because a SSN has 9 digits.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:10 AM on November 3, 2005

essentially, SSNs become public record at the time of death

Are you sure? As I understood it, there is a ten-year delay, or used to be.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:02 AM on November 3, 2005

My mother works for the SSA as a claims rep. People come into the office all the time to get help filling out the forms. Why don't you call your local office and make an appointment or ask them some questions on the phone. They do that sort of thing all the time.
posted by mmascolino at 6:05 AM on November 3, 2005

Rootsweb found my father who died in May 2004. Nice tool. Thanks.
posted by terrapin at 6:31 AM on November 3, 2005

I wasn't even looking for this information, but it ended up being very helpful to me just now. I needed to order additional death certificates and I didn't have any of the information handy. While I was on the phone I was able to pull up the rootsweb results and use that to expedite the process. Thanks, Dan.
posted by terrapin at 6:59 AM on November 3, 2005

Some people's SSN's are in the SSDI. Examples include:

- people who were issued numbers in the 1930's but died before the early 1960's
- women who never registered for their own number because they were lifelong homemakers and so they used their husband's number - these are usually much older women (born circa 1900's)
- some permanent residents (former immigrants) who just plain never got a number
- some small number of people just don't show up for unknown reasons, possibly because they never filed a SS claim for benefits. Examples include my late aunt and my husband's grandfather, both of whom but who don't show up in the database.

Note that it can take a whole year (updates are once every few months) before a deceased person shows up in the database.

posted by Asparagirl at 8:16 AM on November 3, 2005

That should be "are not in the SSDI..."
posted by Asparagirl at 8:18 AM on November 3, 2005

Response by poster: Followup:

I marked both IshmaelGraves and dhartung since they are essentially the same answer. Since "Wendy" doesn't have a computer, I got some info on her father and looked it up for her. Found it no problem; I also looked up a few of my relatives just to play with the database. A useful resource, albeit for very specific needs.
posted by attercoppe at 8:34 PM on November 3, 2005

10^9, because a SSN has 9 digits.

Yeah, that does make a difference, doesn't it. And squirrels are allergic to GrapeNuts©.
posted by yerfatma at 8:42 AM on November 4, 2005

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