The Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File is an extract of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) BIRLS database. The BIRLS database contains records of all VA beneficiaries including Veterans whose survivors applied for burial or other survivorsí benefits. Information on the quality of the death dates in the BIRLS Death Files is available on VIReCís ďBIRLS Death File Research UtilityĒ page.
The BIRLS Death File is a source file for the VHA Vital Status File (VSF). BIRLS Death File records may be linked to Veteransí data in other VA files using real or scrambled Social Security Numbers (SSN). VIReCís "BIRLS Death File Availability" page provides the file format, naming convention used on the Austin Information Technology Center (AITC) mainframe, and dates of availability.
The BIRLS Death File, maintained by VHA Office of Informatics and Analytics, National Data Systems (NDS), and VA Office of Information and Technology, Austin Information Technology Center, contains cumulative information on Veterans reported to be deceased.
Updating the Death File
BIRLS is updated to include a date of death when the VBA receives notification that a Veteran has died. Notification may come from family members applying for death benefits, VHA hospitals, or the VA National Cemetery Administration. The VBA also has a monthly automated process to identify deaths by matching VBA data with the Social Security Administration (SSA) Death File. Regional Offices receive these notifications and manually update the date of death in BIRLS. In a small number of cases, deaths may be incorrectly recorded or the notice may not be accurate. The notice of death is validated only if the Veteran is receiving benefits to prevent termination of benefits if the notice is incorrect.
The BIRLS Death File is completely refreshed each month from the BIRLS system. This refresh allows for changes made in BIRLS to be propagated to the BIRLS Death File on a timely basis.
The process for requesting access depends on how the data will be used. VIReC provides data access information through our collaboration on the VHA Data Portal Intranet site. Visit the Portal for details on accessing the BIRLS death file by selecting from the following data use categories:
- Preparatory to Research
Resources for Researchers
- SAS Proc Contents for real and scrambled SSNs are available from VIReCís Intranet site.
- VIReC's "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)" page provides quick answers to common questions about the BIRLS Death File.