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Chairman Johnson Opening Statement at Hearing on Securing Americans’ Identities: The Future of the Social Security Number

May 17, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a hearing entitled “Securing Americans’ Identities: The Future of the Social Security Number.”

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on the future of the Social Security number.

“The Social Security card and the SSN were created in 1936 so the Social Security Administration could track earnings and correctly determine benefits. Today, we use SSNs for everything. You need one: when you get a job; buy a house; or open a new credit card.

“Given all the ways we use it, it’s no wonder SSNs are a valuable target for identity thieves. 

“For years, I have been dedicated to doing all I can to protect Americans from identity theft by protecting the privacy of SSNs.  Military IDs no longer use SSNs, and Medicare is now sending new cards without these numbers to seniors across the country.  And last year, Congress made all federal agencies stop mailing documents that contain them unless it is absolutely necessary. 

“For a long time keeping SSNs secret meant keeping them safe.

“But after so many high-profile data breaches like those at Equifax, OPM, and Anthem, where hundreds of millions of SSNs were stolen, it is clear they aren’t a secret anymore. And it’s time we stop pretending like they are. 

“Make no mistake, it’s still important to limit the unnecessary use of SSNs. But, if we want to keep pace with identity thieves, we need to think beyond just keeping them secret. 

“As we will hear today, what makes these numbers so valuable to identity thieves is how we use them. Using the SSN both to identify someone and to prove their identity just doesn’t make sense. But we’ve been doing it forever. We need to break this link between identification and authentication.

“We will also hear from Social Security about what it takes get a new SSN when it has been stolen and why it is often harder to do than it should be. 

“I recently learned of a case in Arizona where the mother of a child whose SSN had been stolen was told that she needed to change her daughter’s first, middle, and last name before her daughter could get a new one. That’s just plain wrong. 

“But what’s worse is that having to change your name isn’t Social Security’s policy. It was an extra hoop to jump through made up by a field office employee. While I’m happy the little girl eventually got a new number without having to change her name, getting a new number shouldn’t be so hard. It shouldn’t take a local news story or a call from a Congressional office for Social Security to do right by those looking for help. 

“Identity theft is on the rise and we must take a hard look at the future of the Social Security number – both how it’s used and if Social Security needs to do things differently. We have a responsibility to do all we can to better protect Americans from identity theft.

“I want to thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.”