Oct 10, 2012

4.1% Error Rate In Numident

     From a recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG)(footnotes omitted):
Since 1936, SSA has assigned over 471 million Social Security numbers (SSN) for the primary purpose of accurately reporting and recording the earnings of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security. When SSA assigns an SSN to an individual, it creates a master record of relevant information about the numberholder in its Numident. The Numident includes such information as the numberholder’s name, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names, citizenship status, and date of death (if applicable). It also contains the office where the SSN application was processed.
It is essential that the Numident be as accurate and complete as possible because SSA provides a number of verification services that allow matching of names and SSNs with SSA’s records. E-Verify (formerly Basic Pilot) is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment eligibility verification program supported by SSA. The purpose of E-Verify is to assist employers in verifying the employment eligibility of newly hired employees....
In 2006, we reviewed SSA’s Numident and determined that the information it contained was generally accurate. However, we estimated that discrepancies in approximately 4.1 percent of the Numident records could have resulted in incorrect feedback when submitted through E-Verify. For example, our review showed that the Numident records contained discrepancies in numberholders’ names, dates of birth, citizenship status, and/or death indications. Because our tests included SSNs that SSA had assigned since 1936, we recognized that some numberholders would no longer be working and would not attempt to correct their SSA and/or immigration records. We also recognized that some inaccuracies were due to numberholders who did not update their records with SSA.
      Those who are ineligible to hold down employment in the U.S. due to their immigration status should be prevented from working. Non-citizens should be prevented from voting in the U.S. However, using numident to achieve these goals is unreasonable because numident contains such a high error rate. We can't exclude 4.1% of eligible workers and voters because of simple record-keeping errors. That's an unacceptably high level of errors for such crucial matters. Don't blame Social Security too much. Numident was created for the agency's internal use. It was never anticipated that it would be used for crucial non-agency purposes.

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