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Johnson Announces Hearing on Challenges Facing SSA After More Than 5 Years of Acting Commissioners

February 28, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “Lacking a Leader: Challenges Facing the SSA After Over 5 Years of Acting Commissioners” on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 AM. The hearing will focus on the need for a Senate-confirmed Commissioner to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA), the challenges and limitations the SSA faces when it is led by an Acting Commissioner, and the legal framework for filling a vacancy.

To date, the current period of time that the SSA has been without a Senate-confirmed Commissioner marks the longest amount of time any major federal agency has gone without a Senate-confirmed leader since 1995, when the SSA became an independent agency.

Upon announcing the hearing, Chairman Johnson said: 

“The Social Security Administration has been without a Senate-confirmed Commissioner for more than five years and has instead been operating with an Acting Commissioner. While Acting Commissioner Berryhill has done an admirable job, at the end of the day, the acting head of an agency is just that: acting. They do not have the authority to provide the long-term strategic vision that is critical for success. Important decisions are being put off and service has deteriorated because this agency is lacking a leader.

“Americas want, need, and deserve the SSA to provide the service they expect and count on – and that requires the authority and consistency of a Senate-confirmed Commissioner who can lead the way. I look forward to discussing the critical importance of this role for the millions of people who receive Social Security – today and in the future.”



The Social Security Administration is led by the Commissioner of Social Security, who serves a fixed six-year term requiring Senate confirmation.  In the absence of a Senate-confirmed Commissioner, an Acting Commissioner is named.

The Social Security Administration has been without a Senate-confirmed Commissioner for more than five years since Commissioner Michael Astrue’s term expired on January 19, 2013. The current Acting Commissioner, Nancy Berryhill, has served in that role since January 20, 2017. The current six-year term for a Senate-confirmed Commissioner expires on January 19, 2019.