The Social Security Commissioner’s name isn’t one that most Americans would recognize. This is largely due to the design. Congress, presidents of both parties and former commissioners are committed to ensuring that the commissioner’s role remains impartial. That is why President Biden’s decision to fire me is so worrying. I was only two years in my six-year tenure as SSA commissioner. By targeting me, the government has politicized the SSA.
With the Social Security Independence and Program Improvements Act of 1994, the SSA was subordinated to the Ministry of Health and Welfare and made an independent body. The law stipulated that an SSA commissioner “can only be removed from office on the basis of a determination by the president of a breach of duty or official misconduct”. The email requesting my resignation did not contain any reason for termination.
Throughout my career, I have worked under both Democratic and Republican governments to serve the American people. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama trusted me as chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
SSA commissioners have served in various administrations due to their past tenure. Following his appointment by Mr. Bush in 2007, Commissioner Michael Astrue served during Mr. Obama’s first term and his second term. Mr Biden should remember this well as he was Vice President at the time.
The purpose of the fixed six-year term of office of the SSA commissioners is to give stability to the agency and to protect it from party interference. To get a feel for the independent and bipartisan nature of SSA commissioners look no further than my 77-16 confirming vote in the Senate. As a commissioner, it is my job to keep the agency apolitical and most of my executives have been professional officials. But with a single action, Mr Biden created confusion and uncertainty about the political neutrality of the SSA commissioners.