A petition calling on President-elect Joe Biden to fire President Donald Trump's top political appointees at the Social Security Administration on day one has garnered more than 220,000 signatures as the outgoing administration moves forward with a last-minute assault on the New Deal program that could deny benefits to hundreds of thousands people with disabilities.
"On the first day of your administration, rescind the Trump administration's rule changes that undermine Social Security, and fire all of Donald Trump's political appointees to the Social Security Administration," reads the petition launched by advocacy group Social Security Works, which is urging Biden to "clean house" at the agency.
"We must call on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to rescind these dangerous, last-minute rule changes by the Trump administration and fire all of Donald Trump's political appointees from the Social Security Administration."
—Social Security Works
Earlier this week, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 220 and the Association of Administrative Law Judges—unions that collectively represent tens of thousands of SSA employees—both released surveys showing that their members overwhelmingly do not have confidence in the leadership of Commissioner Andrew Saul, Deputy Commissioner David Black, and other top agency officials.
In a statement Friday, Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson said his group's petition and the union members' no-confidence votes make clear that "Social Security beneficiaries and SSA employees agree: Donald Trump's political appointees are undermining our Social Security system, and Biden must remove them immediately."
Donald Trump’s political appointees are undermining our Social Security system—Joe Biden must remove them immediately. pic.twitter.com/C09z2YCxrH
— SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) December 11, 2020
The growing calls for Biden to remove the top political officials at SSA come as the Trump administration is working to finalize a rule that would tighten eligibility requirements for recipients of Social Security disability benefits, a move that one economist warned "could ultimately prevent as many as 500,000 Americans from receiving benefits."
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In addition to Saul and Black, Social Security Works is demanding that Biden remove Deputy Commissioner of Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky, a longtime advocate of stricter eligibility rules for disability benefits.
"There is no justification for this policy," said Social Security Works. "The United States already has some of the strictest eligibility criteria for disability benefits in the world. More than half of all claims are denied."
"We must call on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to rescind these dangerous, last-minute rule changes by the Trump administration," the group added, "and fire all of Donald Trump's political appointees from the Social Security Administration."
In a "transition report" (pdf) released last month, Social Security Works stressed that Saul "should be asked to resign, and not simply terminated, because the statutory provision setting forth his six-year term states that he can only be removed for 'neglect of duty or malfeasance.'" That statute does not protect Black from termination for any reason, the group noted.
"In the unlikely event that Saul refuses to resign, the president should remove him nevertheless, citing as the power to do so the recent Supreme Court case, Seila Law LLC vs Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," the report states. "It is imperative that the current commissioner and deputy commissioner, in addition to all other political appointees, be removed."