SSA Commissioners

Kenneth S. Apfel

Official photo of Ken Apfel

September 29, 1997 to January 19, 2001

Kenneth Apfel was confirmed as Commissioner of Social Security on Sept. 19th and sworn-in as SSA's 13th Commissioner during a ceremony at SSA Headquarters in Baltimore on Sept. 29, 1997.

"It is hard to overstate the importance of Social Security in improving the lives of Americans," said Commissioner Apfel during his confirmation hearing. "Social Security has been the most successful domestic government program in our nation's history. It has made a decisive difference in providing financial security for older Americans."

Commissioner Apfel was the Associate Director for Human Resources at the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President, where he served from 1995 to the present. His responsibilities included budget, policy and management review of all the human resource agencies of the federal government, including SSA, the Departments of Labor and Education and parts of the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Prior to his appointment to OMB, he served as Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was nominated by President Clinton in March 1993 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In this capacity, he served as the senior budget official and chief financial officer for HHS. He formulated and executed the third largest budget in the world--a $700 billion budget for a department staffed nationwide by 125,000 people, with half of HHS resources in support of the Social Security Administration. During his tenure, he served as a principal on the Secretary's task force to elevate the Social Security Administration to independent agency status.

Before joining the Clinton Administration, he worked for the prior two decades in the area of social policy. From 1989-1993 he served as legislative director to Senator Bill Bradley, overseeing the formulation and development of all aspects of congressional policymaking. During 1982-1989, he was the Senator's chief staff person for federal social policy, with particular focus on programs under the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee. He served as the Senator's key staff person for the Committee's actions on the historic 1983 Social Security reform legislation.

Between 1980-1982, he was committee staff for human services, education, training and income security programs for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. From 1978-1980, he served as a Presidential Management Intern at the U.S. Department of Labor. He was a college administrator from 1973- 1976 at Newbury College in Massachusetts, coordinating a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to provide outreach and remediation to veterans.

"I have known Ken for a number of years," said Acting Commissioner John J. Callahan, following the Senate confirmation, "and I can think of no more highly qualified individual to serve as the first confirmed Commissioner of an independent Social Security Administration. He has the experience, the knowledge, the insight and the compassion to guide Social Security into the next millennium."

The new Commissioner was born in Worcester, Mass. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1970; a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, Northeastern University in 1973; and a master's degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas in 1978.

He is married and has two children.

Apfel's Departure Letter to President Clinton (in PDF format)

Summary of Apfel's Tenure