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Statement From Kenneth S. Apfel Commissioner Of Social Security On Assisting Domestic Violence Victims

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November 4, 1998
For Immediate Release
Catherine Noe 202-358-6018
John Trollinger 410-965-8904

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Social Security Administration
News Release

Statement From Kenneth S. Apfel Commissioner Of Social Security On Assisting Domestic Violence Victims

Domestic violence plagues the lives of millions of Americans, mostly women. For decades, domestic violence was a private tragedy, largely hidden from society's view. It was widely deplored, but too seldom prevented.

The Social Security number has become a part of every American's identity and is as closely and as uniquely associated with a person as his or her name. It is used by employers, banks, universities, credit card companies, health care providers and many other organizations.

Sadly, the Social Security number can sometimes be misused by domestic abusers to locate victims who have tried to escape their tormentors, usually through private investigators, or through Internet web sites. This means that a woman seeking to escape domestic violence may need to change virtually her entire identity - her name, her home, her job and her Social Security number.

Social Security does provide a way for victims to be issued a new Social Security number and help in their efforts to elude their abusers. But it isn't easily done. We require proof of current abuse and proof that the Social Security number is being used - or misused - by the abuser in order to locate the victim. Or we require proof of severe domestic abuse or endangerment of life. Because of this restrictive criteria, only about half of the requests for new Social Security numbers are approved.

That's not good enough. Starting immediately, Social Security will take additional steps to make it easier for abused, battered women to establish a new identity and obtain a new Social Security number, reducing the risk of further violence. This Administration understands that a woman who has been abused has traveled along one of life's hardest roads, and that her government should not place unnecessary obstacles in her path to a new and better life. That's why we want to do everything we can to help women escape the shameless and senseless acts of domestic violence.

See also a Factsheet, which includes some Questions and Answers, regarding domestic violence policy change. Additional information is also available on the White House Web site.

Copies of most SSA press releases, as well as other Social Security information and statistics, are available at SSA's Internet site, Social Security Online, at

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