Biden ousts Social Security leadership
President Joe Biden ousted top leadership of the Social Security bureau on Friday, July 9, after months of pressure to do so from unions at the bureau and several Democrats in Congress.
Kilolo Kijakazi, the agency’s deputy commissioner for pension 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 the agency for fixed terms by former President Donald Trump.
Saul’s six-year term would run until 2025. Under the terms of the position, he could be fired by the president after a finding of “dereliction of duty or misdemeanor in office.” Black’s six-year position was also confirmed by the Senate, but the terms allow the president to remove the person in the position without an unfavorable finding.
Biden requested the resignation of both on June 9. Saul was fired after refusal. Black agreed to resign, the government official told FCW.
“Since taking office, Commissioner Saul has undermined and politicized Social Security disability benefits, terminated the agency’s telecommuting policies used by up to 25 percent of the agency’s workforce, and failed to reestablish SSA’s relationships with relevant federal employee associations, including not in the context of COVID-19 workplace safety planning, reduced judicial protections for benefit appeals hearings, and other actions taken contrary to the agency’s mission and the president’s policy agenda,” the White House official said. .
The change in leadership follows a June 23 Supreme Court ruling that job protections given to the director of the Fair Housing Finance Agency, which has leadership similar to SSA, was unconstitutional.
Unions have been calling for Biden to oust top leaders for months, saying sour labor-management relations at the agency won’t improve with Saul and Black left.
“AALJ is very pleased to learn that Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black have been removed from their leadership positions,” Judge Melissa McIntosh, president of the Association of Administrative Judges, told FCW. “They were involved in very aggressive union breakdown, 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 for the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (NC) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.