Social Security Number Reduction Overview
In May 2007, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued memorandum M-07-16, Safeguarding Against and Responding to the Breach of Personally Identifiable Information, requiring agencies to review their use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) in agency systems and programs to identify instances in which the collection or use of the number was unnecessary. Lastly, the memorandum required agencies to explore alternatives to using SSNs as personal identifiers for Federal employees and in Federal programs.
VA is committed to safeguarding Veterans' and employees' privacy by reducing or eliminating the use of SSNs in records. VA's SSN Reduction Initiative is an ongoing program, initiated by OMB Memorandum 07-16 and driven by other recent Federal legislation such as the Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, P.L. 117-103, Division J, Title II (Sec. 237).
The Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 prohibits the inclusion of SSNs on any document sent by mail unless the head of the agency determines that the inclusion of the SSN is necessary per Final Rule (RIN-2900-AR19).
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, P.L. 117-103, Division J, Title II (Sec. 237), mandates VA to discontinue using SSNs to identify individuals in all VA information systems. VA must discontinue use of SSNs for all Veterans submitting new claims for benefits to VA not later than March 23, 2023 and in all VA information systems for all other individuals not later than March 23, 2026.
VA will address compliance with this legislation through a multi-year phased approach that includes system modifications, user and Veteran re-education and awareness campaigns.
Documenting and limiting the use of SSNs has become a priority of the Federal government to prevent the inappropriate disclosure or misuse of personally identifiable information (PII). The widespread collection and use of SSNs for government services exposes Veterans, employees and contractors within VA to privacy risks like identity theft. VA, in conjunction with all Federal agencies, must take steps to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the use of the SSN for uniquely identifying individuals in VA operations, programs and services.
Acceptable Uses for Social Security Numbers
New Privacy Act Regulation Amendments
The Department of Veterans Affairs is amending its regulations implementing the Privacy Act. These revisions clarify and update the language of procedural requirements pertaining to the inclusion of Social Security account numbers (SSN) on documents that the Department sends by mail.
- • Document Exemptions for Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
- • Document Exemptions for Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
- • Document Exemptions for Office of Management (OM)
Accomplishments to Date
• Veteran SSNs no longer appear on VA prescription labels, bottles or mailing labels.
• Veteran SSNs were removed from health care authorization cards issued for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), the Spina Bifida Health Care Program (SB), and the Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Program (CWVV).
• Veteran SSNs were either removed from or truncated to the last four digits on most VHA correspondence.
• VBA replaced SSNs with DoD identification numbers on outreach letters sent to active duty and separated service members.
• VA continues to develop and enhance the eBenefits Portal, a joint VA/DoD web portal that provides resources and self-service capabilities to Veterans. Registering for and using the eBenefits DS Logon allows the Veteran to access personal information with a username and password through the secure web portal, eliminating the need to provide SSN.