Editor's Note: An error in our forms survey regarding the State of Wisconsin has been brought to our attention. For the vast majority of their forms, inclusion of the Social Security number is optional. You may read about the correction here.
Three weeks ago, I wrote about learning that my personal identity had been stolen, and that a person or persons had been opening various credit accounts in my name. Due to fairly quick action by one major bank and the fact that the criminal idiots couldn't spell my first name correctly, most of the attempts failed or were referred for review in the application stages. To date, only one account was successfully opened and used. Unfortunately, the miscreants in that case apparently got away with several thousand dollars in merchandise.
As I indicated in a follow up article, this has put me on a one-man mission to eradicate the use of social security numbers from most state workers' compensation forms.
There is no need in this day and age to require injured workers' social security numbers on most jurisdictional forms. I understand it is necessary when filing the claim with the state, but after that point it does not need to be flagrantly displayed on a multitude of forms; forms that are shared with TPA's, carriers, state agencies, law offices, doctors' offices, support vendors and more. Each transaction point represents real risk that a breach may occur and injured workers' identities may be exploited.
I tasked my work associates to conduct a review of the jurisdictional forms that we continually manage as part of our WorkCompResearch library. I wanted to know how many forms in each state contain fields asking for a person's social security number. The results are in, and they are generally not impressive.
Nationwide, of the 3,417 forms we reviewed, 734, or 21.5%, contain a spot for a full social security number. An additional 162 contain fields asking just for the last 4 digits of a social security number. That number will gain more relevance in future updates to this topic, as they largely represent the efforts of a few states to move away from this critical problem.
So, who are the biggest Social Security offenders? Well, the “big three”, the bad boys of workers' comp, turn out to be Wisconsin, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Washington, DC only has 14 forms, one of the smallest collections in our library, yet 7 of them, 50%, require the inclusion of a social security number. West Virginia, with 28 forms, requires the number on 16 of them, which equals 57.1%. And Wisconsin wins “Queen of the Ball” designation, with 28 of their 47 forms – 59.6%, demanding a person's very private social security number in order to manage their claim.
As I wrote previously, I don't blame the current regulators for this issue. This is the quintessential example of “how we've always done it.” Our industry, like others, has used these numbers for years, but as recent trends have shown extreme vulnerabilities with that practice, it is time to respond and change the way we do things. Other industries have quickly moved away from the practice. It is time that we do as well.
There is good news out there. I do want to take a moment to tip my hat to Connecticut and Maine, whose forms combined require a SS# exactly zero (0) times. But we'll save those details for the next update. They deserve a bit more time in the sun.
This is an issue of great importance, and as someone whose own social security number has been compromised, I do not think we best take it lightly. My next post on the topic will be discussing the states that fared well in the review, as well as those who are making the bold efforts to change.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
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Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.