Why are 3,000 victims of 9/11 missing from Social Security death list?

By July 13, 2011

Why are the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11 missing from an official federal registry of death?

According to the Death Master File — the official record of 90 million deceased Americans who were issued Social Security cards since 1937 — there were 6,298 deaths recorded on that awful day in 2001 when terrorists struck the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a rural area in Pennsylvania.

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But since an average of 6,200 Americans die every day, there should have been more than 9,000 deaths recorded for Sept. 11, 2001.

Conspicuous by their absence in the federal file are many prominent victims of the attacks, including New York City Fire Chief Peter Ganci Jr., Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge and businessmen Daniel Lewin, founder of Akamai Technologies, and Thomas Burnett Jr. chief operating officer of Thoratec Corp.

“The mystery about 9/11 baffles me,” said Beth Givens, executive director of the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse which has received complaints about the accuracy of the death file. “The only things that come to mind are some of the conspiracy theories that we hear out there — and I don’t want to go there.”

Conspiracy theorists, indeed, have noticed and are questioning whether the government has told the truth about what happened that day. A video posted on YouTube entitled “Where are the 9/11 Victims?” shows that only 405 people are listed as dying in the state of New York that day.

The Social Security Administration, which oversees the Death Master File, does not have a clear explanation.

“There are several possible reasons,” said Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle. “For example, by law, we cannot make public the death reports we get from certain states. Another possibility is that the death was not reported to us because the person was not receiving benefits or there were no survivors’ benefits to be paid on the deceased’s Social Security record.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also compiles a mortality registry of information obtained from death certificates, which is one of the sources Social Security uses for the Death Master File. The CDC’s registry correctly shows a 3,000-death bump above average for that day in 2001.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has begun inquiries into the reporting failure after she was told of the issue by Scripps Howard News Service. She is asking Social Security Administrator Michael Astrue, and the public health commissioners for New York State and New York City to, jointly, explain how the error occurred.

“Would you explain why individuals killed on 9/11 would be missing from the DMF?” Maloney asked in a joint letter to all three commissioners.

Consumer experts warn that inaccuracies in the Death Master File are a concern for families who need protection from thieves who could profit by assuming the identity of deceased loved ones. Researchers also use the file in a wide variety of medical and scientific studies that could be skewed by inaccurate counts of deaths.

There are many other mysteries in the Death Master File.

Disproportionately more people are listed as having died on either the first or 15th of each month than should be. About 3.6 million people died on the 15th of their month of death, 1.7 million on the first, and an average of less than 1.5 million for all other days. This means that more than 2 million records likely contain the wrong date.

“Social Security receives death reports from other federal government agencies. In the past, these reports included the verified month and year of death, but did not include the day of death,” Hinkle said. “In order to process the death information in our systems, we needed to fill in a day of death.”

Hinkle said the 15th of the month sometimes was used “as a default day of death” until the precise day of death could be obtained.

Due to clerical errors, the Death Master File also contains the names of thousands of Americans who are still alive, Hinkle said.

Scripps Howard News Service was able to identify 31,931 still living Americans by analyzing back copies of the death file. Forty-one percent of these were listed as having died on the 15th.

These reporting errors are not evenly distributed throughout the nation. A disproportionate number were found in Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. The rate of error was extremely low in rural, lightly populated Western states such as Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nevada.

Hinkle did not give an explanation for these discrepancies.

“We make it clear that our death records are not perfect and may be incomplete or, rarely, include information about individuals who are alive,” he said. “Because we do not receive reports for all deaths and cannot release all of the reports we do receive, the absence of a particular person (in the Death Master File) does not prove the person is alive. Our error rate is about 0.5 percent.”

Hinkle said the Social Security Administration each week reports “erroneous death data” to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, part of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division. He said the administration also “hired a contractor to review all cases of inadvertent exposure of people’s information. The contractor has found no patterns of organized misuse and no indications of identity theft.”


Scripps Howard News Service


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • LuLu o'ShenaniganJuly 20, 2011 - 9:23 pm

    It has been explained to me by The Social Security Administration and this is so simple possibly a democrate could figure it out. You have to be collecting social security or disability and you die the family has to tell them by submitting a death certifcate. If Your working you "WOULD NOT BE COLLECTING THESE BENEFITS." so how would they know your deseased??

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  • 07augustAugust 12, 2011 - 9:47 pm

    Figures a witch paid poster who works for Witch Ann Cappelletti would be the 1st post, not to mention "What a stupid post,"

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  • Annette SchmidtJuly 24, 2011 - 12:20 pm

    My daughter was not working nor collecting benefits as she was only 13 at the time of her death, but she is in the SSDI.

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  • BMVecchioJuly 25, 2011 - 1:13 am

    please clarify the statement ". “For example, by law, we cannot make public the death reports we get from certain states...." ... which states prohibit or are prohibited by law of reporting the death of an individual with or without social security information ... also ... as one person pointed out there daughter's death was reported regardless of the fact she was not working or receiving benefits... all children born now as U.S. citizens are required to be registered with a social security number if I remember correctly .. I'm not sure when this law was instituted..but that would explain her daughter's death showing up on death index. I could well understand the death of an individual being reported as a matter of public record .. as it is done for probate purposes... or otherwise... and not include the actual social security number... and also the fact that on 9/11 not all victims were necessarily U.S. citizens who had social security numbers... so a limited number of them not appearing on the record would make sense. I would also assume that part of the delay in reporting 9/11 deaths on the record would have to do with the "final" legal confirmation of death ... either by dna or court declaration.

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  • Dean JacksonAugust 05, 2011 - 8:16 pm

    The article reads: “Since few bodies were recovered from the collapsed World Trade Center's twin towers, privately owned funeral homes did not independently report the deaths to the Social Security Administration, as is their common practice.” Someone should inform SSA that funerals of 9/11 victims took place even without a body present, however the SSA is telling the truth (which is the only piece of truth SSA tells in the article) about funeral homes not offering their customary service of informing SSA of the deceased. However, the reason so many death notices weren’t sent out by funeral homes is because the death notices were already taken care of! Read the following 2003 article on SSA procedure on how the SSA accepted “as proof of death that, under other circumstances, would not have been accepted. Airplane manifests, lists of employees furnished by employers and other statements that placed the worker at the scene of the attacks were accepted.” Here’s the 2003 article on SSA procedures for 9/11 attack death notices: Social Security's Response to 9-11 Attacks More than $3 million a month being paid to victims' families By Robert Longley, About.com Guide The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports having paid nearly $67 million in benefits to people affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As a result of September 11th, Social Security received 5,629 individual benefit claims from 2,281 families. Most of the assistance went to family members of those killed in the terrorist attacks. However, Social Security also helped workers get disability and retirement benefits. Survivors Benefits: Family members of deceased workers may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. To family members of deceased 9-11 attacks victims, Social Security is currently paying monthly benefits to 2,375 surviving children and 853 surviving spouses. In addition to monthly benefits, one-time payments were made to 1,800 members of victims’ families… Social Security responded to the September 11th terrorist attacks by activating special emergency procedures to give the fastest possible service to the families of the victims of the tragedies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. These procedures allowed for acceptance of documents as proof of death that, under other circumstances, would not have been accepted. Airplane manifests, lists of employees furnished by employers and other statements that placed the worker at the scene of the attacks were accepted. Social Security employees helped families at special assistance centers that were established in New York, Arlington, VA, and Shanksville, PA. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you Scripps Howard News Service for getting the government to admit that only 10% of WTC deceased are listed in the SSDI. Now we need to learn why SSA lied today about the low number. We also want to know why the government inflated the number of WTC deaths! As if we don’t already know the answer to that question. Don’t you just love the Internet? Embarrassing information is just a click away!

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  • CJ LaityNovember 19, 2011 - 1:52 pm

    I wonder, so very few bodies were actually found, can it be proven that those people died? Do they even have death certificates?

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  • 07AugustNovember 19, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    John & Mike Cappelletti's demolition company gutted & planted the explosives in the WTC for the 911 finale of cascading ritual demolition. When Barbara Bush saw John Cappelletti, the spitting image of young Crowley (in 1970), Barb knew Ann was her sister. http://forum.davidicke.com/showpost.php?p=1059605544&postcount=107

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