The head of a union representing more than 26,000 Social Security employees is using the pages of the largest daily newspaper in President Joe Biden’s hometown to demand the immediate termination of Andrew Saul and David Black, Trump holdovers at the Social Security Administration who have been accused of sabotaging relief checks and undermining seniors’ benefits.
“If Biden is invested in protecting and expanding Social Security, he must begin by immediately firing Saul and Black and replacing them with leaders who are ready to work with employees to build a better SSA.”
—Ralph de Juliis, AFGE Council 220
Appearing in The News Journal (pdf)—the paper with the largest circulation in Wilmington, Delaware—three open letters by AFGE Council 220 president Ralph de Juliis published in the past week argue that as SSA commissioner and deputy commissioner, Saul and Black “continue to wreak havoc on the biggest social safety net program in the United States” and “harm the basic services of the federal government to score political points.”
“Just recently, Saul delayed the delivery of $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of elderly and disabled, and only relented [after] leaders in Congress cried foul,” de Juliis writes in a open letter that appeared in The News Journal‘s April 16 edition.
“Over the past two years, Saul and Black have also created a culture of anti-employee bias that ultimately harms the people we serve,” de Juliis added. “When the entire corporate working world transitioned quickly to remote work at the onset of the pandemic, Saul refused to reinstate telework for thousands of SSA employees, putting the public health of Social Security recipients at risk.”
In a statement on Tuesday, de Juliis said that “it is unacceptable that nearly 100 days into President Biden’s first term, Social Security employees and the public we serve continue to remain under the thumb of Trump political appointees who were installed to run Social Security into the ground.”
“If Biden is invested in protecting and expanding Social Security,” de Juliis continued, “he must begin by immediately firing Saul and Black and replacing them with leaders who are ready to work with employees to build a better SSA.”
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The letters come as Biden is facing growing pressure from Democratic members of Congress and progressive advocacy groups to remove Saul and Black, whose six-year terms don’t expire until 2025.
In a statement earlier this month, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)—chair of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging—urged Saul and Black to resign and “make room for new leadership who will be the careful stewards of Social Security Americans deserve.”
“Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black were given an opportunity to strengthen Social Security,” said Casey, “but they have instead focused their tenures on making it harder for Americans to receive essential benefits and on antagonizing the critical workforce they oversee.”
While current law states that the SSA commissioner can only be removed “pursuant to a finding by the president of neglect of duty or malfeasance in office,” advocacy group Social Security Works argues (pdf) that Supreme Court precedent set by Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives Biden the power to oust Saul.
Federal statute does not protect the deputy commissioner from termination by the president.
“Andrew Saul and his deputy David Black are making it harder for people who spent decades working physically demanding jobs to claim Social Security disability benefits,” Social Security Works tweeted Tuesday. “The president must fire Saul and Black now.”