President Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk that read "the buck stops here." If Andrew Saul, the man Donald Trump put in charge of the Social Security Administration (SSA), had a sign on his desk, it would say "it's never my fault."
"It's unclear if Saul and Black delayed the survival checks in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Biden administration, or if they are just extremely incompetent. But their record shows that they deserve zero benefit of the doubt."
Nearly 30 million Social Security beneficiaries are facing weeks-long delays in receiving their COVID relief checks. These are seniors and people with disabilities, many of whom live on fixed incomes and desperately need these checks. Instead of taking responsibility, Saul and his deputy David Black are pointing fingers, making excuses, and flat out lying.
Several weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law, the IRS asked SSA for the data needed to send $1,400 survival checks to Social Security beneficiaries. For a full month, Saul and Black failed to send the data. As a direct result, seniors and people with disabilities across the country did not receive their relief checks.
Finally, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee took action. Congressmen Richard Neal (D-MA), John Larson (D-CT), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and Danny Davis (D-IL) issued an ultimatum. In the words of Rep. Pascrell, "We are giving the Trump-appointed heads of the Social Security Admin 24 hours to get off their backsides and stop delaying sending stimulus checks to 30,000,000 Americans."
The congressional pressure worked. The next day, Saul and Black finally sent the IRS the data to send out the checks. But by dragging their feet for a month, they ensured that the survival checks would arrive weeks late—a catastrophic delay for seniors and people with disabilities who are counting on those checks to pay for food, housing, and medicines.
Saul and Black insist that the delay was not their fault, claiming that a bureaucratic error in the stimulus bill prevented them from sharing data. They are lying. Asking about Saul's claims, a spokesperson for the Ways and Means Committee spokesperson told Newsweek:
"Funds could not be directly appropriated because of the reconciliation process, but they were appropriated to Treasury with the intent that they would be distributed to SSA in a timely manner, so this line of defense doesn't hold. It inexplicably took two weeks for the transfer to happen after the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, which is a clear failure of leadership from SSA."
Doubling down on his lies in an extremely defensive statement, Saul tried to hide behind the agency's workforce. "There is no one more committed to serving the public than the employees of this agency," said Saul. "I find any insinuation to the contrary to be unacceptable."
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SSA employees are indeed dedicated to serving the public. That's why they want President Biden to fire Saul and Black, who are undermining the agency's mission, immediately. Back in December, unions representing the SSA workforce held nearly unanimous no-confidence votes in Saul and Black. The people who know Saul and Black's leadership best want them gone.
It's unclear if Saul and Black delayed the survival checks in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Biden administration, or if they are just extremely incompetent. But their record shows that they deserve zero benefit of the doubt.
For years, Saul and Black have worked to cut Social Security benefits and union-bust the agency's workforce. They want to make it harder to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, and easier to take them away. According to a whistleblower report, they threatened to fire judges for approving too many disability claims—which is illegal.
The drumbeat for President Biden to remove Saul and Black is growing. In January, several unions representing the SSA workforce urged Biden to remove Saul and Black on day one of his administration. During his first weeks in office, Biden made some positive personnel changes, but failed to remove Saul and Back.
In February, in his first act as chair of the Senate Social Security Subcommittee,Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called Saul and Black "key agents of the Trump agenda to dismantle Social Security" and urged Biden to remove them immediately. Weeks ago,Reps. Pascrell, Larson, and Davis—who are all chairs of key House subcommittees—joined the calls for the removal of Saul and Black, stating that they have "pushed substantial cuts to Social Security" and "engaged in aggressive anti-union activities."
Their sabotage of the survival checks shows that just because a new president is in the White House doesn't mean Saul and Black will stop acting as Donald Trump's agents. Joe Biden ran for president on a promise to protect and expand Social Security. To fulfil it, he needs leadership at the Social Security Administration who will work with him, not against him.
President Biden, it's long past time: Fire Andrew Saul and David Black immediately.