Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue is stepping down. (Alex Wong / Getty)
Michael Astrue, head of the Social Security Administration since 2007, is stepping down next month.
“I consider it a great privilege to have led this remarkable agency for six years,” Astrue said in a news release announcing his departure. Astrue’s term officially expired Jan. 19, but he can remain in the post until the Senate confirms a successor. President Obama, however, has not nominated a replacement.
Astrue, a Massachusetts attorney, has headed the agency since early 2007 after being appointed by then-President George W. Bush. He had previously disavowed any plans to seek another term.
Under Astrue’s tenure, Social Security Administration adopted fast-track procedures to speed up handling of claims from the most disabled applicants and significantly cut the processing time for disability appeals, the news release said. Astrue has also spearheaded construction of a new Baltimore-area data center.
More recently, however, he has had to grapple with tighter budgets as the agency’s workload continues to grow. Astrue has also clashed with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing most SSA field office staff, over office closings and other issues.
“I’m pleased that he’s leaving,” said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the union council that includes SSA locals, said in a phone interview. In a letter to the White House earlier this month, Skwiercyznski said, the union asked Obama to name either SSA Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin or Nancy Altman, co-director of the advocacy group Social Security Works, as the next commissioner.