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Freedom of Information Act

When the Social Security Board was first formed in 1937, there was a considerable amount of skepticism regarding the amount and types of personal information which needed to be given to a government agency. In order to help assure workers and employers that their personal information would be kept confidential, the Social Security Board enacted a requirement guaranteeing complete privacy of all records compiled. This policy was in force until the Freedom of Information Act (1966) was passed, demanding that government open their books and operate in a transparent manner.

While the Freedom of Information Act (1966) was not specifically aimed at Social Security Disability records, the end result, nonetheless, was that these records became accessible upon request. The Freedom of Information Act (1966) was amended in 1974, spelling out which kinds of records needed to be released upon request. Social Security Disability records were still subject to the Freedom of Information Act (1966) unless the request for information represented an obvious invasion of privacy.

By 1996, much of the information being gathered by the government was no longer kept in paper files, including much of the Social Security Disability information. Thus, it was deemed necessary to amend the Freedom of Information Act (1966) to include electronically transmitted and stored information, including information pertaining to Social Security Disability.

Two related laws, the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Computer Matching Act of 1988 regulate the ways in which the Freedom of Information Act (1966) impacts private citizens, including Social Security Disability claimants and disability benefits recipients. The Privacy Act allows you some degree of control regarding which types of information can be accessed about you and requires that prior notice be given before certain kinds of information, including much of the information gathered in Social Security Disability cases, can be accessed.

The Computer Matching Act of 1988 was designed to allow computers to search for certain types of matching information which is used primarily to discover potential fraud in Social Security Disability cases. Again, this requires that notice be given before the matching is acted upon.