What is 'Death Master File (DMF)'

The Death Master File (DMF) is a list of people whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration since 1962. It is important to realize the Death Master File contains only the death data of people who had Social Security numbers.

Breaking Down 'Death Master File (DMF)'

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Death Master File contains more than 83 million records of deaths reported to the SSA. The Death Master File typically contains the Social Security number, name, date of birth and date of death.

This database is used to help the SSA manage their many programs and benefits and is gathered primarily from family members, funeral homes, the U.S. Postal Service, lawyers and banks. It is important to note that the SSA records are not a comprehensive record of all deaths in the country.

The DMF is an extract of death information on the NUMIDENT, the electronic database that contains the SSA records of Social Security Numbers (SSN) assigned to individuals since 1936. The SSA prepares two versions of the DMF:  the full file contains all death records extracted from the NUMIDENT database, including death data received from the States. The full file is typically only available to Federal and State agencies. The public file is more limited and is comprised of death records taken from the NUMIDENT database, but excluding any data received from the States. The SSA provides this version to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service, a clearinghouse for government information, which may sell it to public and private organizations.

Accessing Death Data

If a federal agency is interested in entering into a data exchange agreement with the SSA to receive the full file of death information, they must complete the data exchange request form (SSA-157) found on the SSA Website and email the form to ORDP.Data.Exchange@ssa.gov

State agencies interested in entering into a data exchange agreement with the SSA should submit a request via the provisions listed on the SSA Website. Requirements and guidelines can be found on the IRS Website.

Any request for the full file must provide the following information to the SSA: why the request is being made; what legal authority under section 205(r) of the Social Security Act supports the request; the anticipated frequency current and future requests; what safeguards are in place protecting any data to be provided by the SSA, and if the requesting agency currently has a data exchange agreement with the SSA to receive the full file.

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