It has been a very long time since the Social Security Administration (SSA) has had a duly appointed Commissioner. Advocates will recall that Carolyn Colvin remained in an acting role for her entire tenure. And Nancy Berryhill, appointed Acting Commissioner after Ms. Colvin’s retirement, is now ostensibly running the agency. Due to the vagaries of the time limits set by the federal Vacancies Act, Berryhill briefly returned to her role of Deputy Commissioner, but as of April 17th, she is back to Acting Commissioner.
The President, however, recently announced his intention to nominate Andrew M. Saul of New York to be Commissioner of Social Security, for the remainder of a six year term expiring January 19, 2019, and for an additional six year term expiring January 19, 2025. Mr. Saul is currently a partner with Saul Partners, L.P. His previous business positions include: Chairman of the Board of Cache, Inc., President of Brooks Fashion Stores, Inc., and President of BR Investors. He served as Chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Although Mr. Saul’s positions on Social Security issues are not generally know, he has been affiliated with a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute. The Manhattan Institute has published reports blaming Social Security for budget deficits. See https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/trumps-budget-shows-peril-surging-social-security-and-medicare-costs-10962.html. It has also taken a negative view of claimants’ representatives. https://www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/tli_update12.pdf.
The President will also nominate David Fabian Black of North Dakota, to be Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for the remainder of a six-year term expiring January 19, 2019. Mr. Black currently serves as the White House Senior Advisor at the Social Security Administration. He served as SSA’s General Counsel from October 2007 until July 2015.
These nominations have not yet officially occurred. The Senate confirmation process involves several steps. Thus, the timeline for confirmation hearings and votes is very uncertain. And it is uncertain what priority the Senate will give these SSA nominations once it officially receives them or what the prospects for confirmation for either of these nominees are. It is unclear what duties of the Commissioner can and cannot be delegated under 42 U.S.C. § 902(a)(7), so some important issues may be on hold at the agency