The head position in the Social Security Administration is the commissioner. This is a major administrative role that can affect the way social security works in various ways.
As explained on the SSA website, the commissioner is in charge of the entire organization. It has around 60,000 employees across the country.
Structure of the SSA
Of course, not all of these employees report directly to the commissioner. There are various offices nationwide, each with a directorial position. These top-level jobs in the so-called regional field sites do not necessarily always have someone occupying them.
Appointment of commissioners
The rules governing the position of the commissioner of social security and its duties and powers come from federal law. The job requires an appointment by the president of the United States with advice from the senate. The term of an appointment is six years.
Chain of command
During the six years, the commissioner reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who reports to the president. Apart from that oversight, the person holding this office has a wide authority to change most any organizational, personnel-related or operational aspect of the Social Security Administration. There are some exceptions, of course. For example, the commissioner does not have the power to change the rules governing his or her own position.
Significance of the position
The commissioner also cannot change the duties of the Social Security Administration itself. However, through staffing, procedural and organizational changes, the commissioner could conceivably alter the way that people applying for Social Security experience the process. For example, employing fewer people could slow down responses to applications for benefits.
Politics of the position
Since the appointment lasts for six years, this position could outlast that of the president who made the decision. Any subsequent president would have to prove malfeasance or neglect to remove the commissioner from office. It is, therefore, often an appointment that affects social security benefits applicants in the same way across political shifts.