There’s new leadership at the Social Security Administration. A number of retirement advocates are applauding the move.
President Joe Biden fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul on July 9. Saul, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, locked heads with Democrats earlier this year over the timing of stimulus check payments to Social Security beneficiaries, as well as other issues.
His six-year term was set to expire in 2025. Saul’s deputy, David Black, resigned the same day, per a White House request.
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Biden has appointed Kilolo Kijakazi to the role of acting commissioner. Kijakazi was previously named by Biden to serve as deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy.
“From the beginning of their tenure at the Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul and David Black were anti-beneficiary and anti-employee,” Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat who serves as House Ways and Means Committee Social Security subcommittee chairman, said in a statement.
Among Larson’s complaints about Saul’s leadership include the pursuit of rules to make it more difficult for some people to access benefits, particularly disability for people who are unable to communicate in English. The administration also moved to put agency lawyers in charge of appeals decisions, reducing due process protections.
“Now, President Biden will be able install someone who will work to fulfill his promise of protecting and enhancing Social Security,” Larson said.
Neither Saul nor Black responded to requests for comment.
Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist and professor at the New School for Social Research, praised the selection of Kijakazi.
“Just make it permanent!” Ghilarducci tweeted. “[Kijakazi] knows everything about Social Security and its effects on workers and poor elders.”
Other retirement advocacy groups also backed the leadership switch.
“Andrew Saul and David Black were appointed by former President Donald Trump to undermine Social Security,” Alex Lawson, executive director at Social Security Works, said in a statement. “That includes waging a war on people with disabilities, demoralizing the agency’s workforce and delaying President Biden’s stimulus checks.”
Richard Fiesta, executive director at the Alliance for Retired Americans, also praised the change.
“Andrew Saul was a disaster for seniors and all Social Security beneficiaries,” Fiesta said. “From day one, he was on a mission to gut the Social Security system from the inside.
“Thank you President Biden for taking decisive action.”