Biden ousts Social Security Administration Leadership
- By Natalie Alms
- Jul 09, 2021
President Joe Biden ousted top leadership at the Social Security Agency on Friday, July 9, after months of pressure to do so from unions at the agency and various Democrats in Congress.
Kilolo Kijakazi, the agency’s deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, will serve as acting commissioner. An email from Kijakazi to SSA staff announcing the changes went out late Friday afternoon, and a White House spokesperson confirmed the moves to FCW.
Former Commissioner Andrew Saul and former Deputy Commissioner David Black were both appointed to fixed terms at the agency by former President Donald Trump.
Saul’s six-year term was set to run through 2025. The position’s terms allowed him to be fired by the president after a finding of "neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.” Black’s six-year position was also Senate-confirmed, but its terms allow the president to remove the person in the position without an adverse finding.
Biden requested resignations from both on June 9. Saul was terminated after refusing. Black agreed to resign, the administration official told FCW.
“Since taking office, Commissioner Saul has undermined and politicized Social Security disability benefits, terminated the agency’s telework policy that was utilized by up to 25 percent of the agency’s workforce, not repaired SSA’s relationships with relevant Federal employee unions including in the context of COVID-19 workplace safety planning, reduced due process protections for benefits appeals hearings, and taken other actions that run contrary to the mission of the agency and the President’s policy agenda,” the White House official said.
The change in leadership follows a June 23 ruling from the Supreme Court that found the job protections given to the director of the Fair Housing Finance Agency, which has a similar leadership to SSA, were unconstitutional.
Unions have been calling for Biden to oust top leadership for months, saying that sour labor-management relations at the agency won’t improve with Saul and Black remaining.
"AALJ is very pleased to learn that Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black have been removed from their leadership positions," president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, Judge Melissa McIntosh, told FCW. "They engaged in very aggressive union busting, and people who have such animosity towards unions should not be in charge of federal agencies."
SSA press officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.