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WASHINGTON—President Biden fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul Friday after Mr. Saul declined a request to resign, the White House said, accusing Mr. Saul of politicizing Social Security disability benefits.
The president also asked for the resignation of the deputy Social Security commissioner, David Black, who the White House said agreed to step down. Both men were appointed by President Trump.
Social Security is one of the federal government’s largest programs, paying regular retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits to millions of Americans.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533
Mr. Biden has appointed Kilolo Kijakazi as acting commissioner, the White House said. Ms. Kijakazi is the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy at the agency.
Republicans criticized the firing of Messrs. Saul and Black, arguing that their terms weren’t set to expire until 2025. “This removal would be an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter.
The White House said Mr. Saul had undermined Social Security disability benefits, arguing that his approach to the agency conflicts with Mr. Biden’s goals.
The White House also criticized Mr. Saul for terminating the telework policy upon which one-quarter of the agency’s employees relied, straining the administration’s relationship with federal employee unions and reducing due process protections for benefits appeals hearings.
The Social Security Administration referred a request for comment to the White House. Mr. Saul couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The Washington Post earlier reported Mr. Saul’s firing. He told the outlet he would contest his removal.
Democrats had been pressing for the firing, citing as precedent the recent Supreme Court decision that let Mr. Biden fire the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, in March called for Messrs. Saul’s and Black’s removal, contending that they had made it harder for older, disabled workers to be found eligible for benefits.
Mr. Pascrell had accused Mr. Saul of blocking non-English speakers’ access to disability assistance, increasing the number of case reviews for recipients of Social Security disability insurance and shifting responsibility for disability hearings from administrative law judges to Social Security Administration lawyers.
“The leadership of the Social Security Administration under these men has been marked by a stunning streak of disregard, callousness, and destruction of the agency,” Mr. Pascrell said following the firing.
“Saul and his team have admirably focused on service to beneficiaries, and steered the Social Security Administration through the pandemic with success,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who sits on the Finance Committee. “President Biden is overtly politicizing the SSA.”
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