SSA Commissioners

Gwendolyn S. King

photo of Gwen King

August 1, 1989 to September 30, 1992

Gwendolyn King was born in East Orange, New Jersey. She graduated from Howard University in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in French and Education, and from 1972 to 1974 did graduate work at George Washington University. Mrs. King was a French, English, and reading teacher from 1962 to 1971. She joined the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1971 as a management intern, and by the time she left that organization in 1976 she had achieved the position of Senior Health Desk Officer. From 1976 to 1978 she was Director, Division of Consumer Complaints for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1978 she became Senior Legislative Assistant to Senator John Heinz. From 1979 to 1986 Mrs. King worked as Director of then Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh's Washington, D.C. office. From 1986 to 1988, she served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to President Reagan, and Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1988, Mrs. King joined Gogol & Associates, Inc. as its Executive Vice President, a position she held until 1989 when she was appointed Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Mrs. King resigned as SSA Commissioner in 1992 to take a senior vice president position with the Philadelphia Electric Company.

Key Dates and Events During Commissioner King's Tenure

July 14, 1989: President George H. W. Bush nominated Gwendolyn S. King, former White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, to head the Social Security Administration. The Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination on July 25, 1989. On August 1, 1989, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan administered the oath of office to the Eleventh Commissioner of Social Security, at SSA headquarters in Woodlawn near Baltimore, MD.

October 4, 1989: The American Federation of Government Employees Local 1923 saluted the new commissioner of the Social Security Administration for agreeing to reconsider the need for on-site day care for employees of the agency. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) had asked that day care at Woodlawn and other SSA facilities be considered.

October 24, 1989: Joined by Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, along with US Reps. Ben Cardin (D-MD 3rd) and Kweisi Mfume (D-MD 7th), Commissioner King dedicated the new SSA Teleservice Center in Baltimore, MD. The new toll-free service expands from 60 percent of the country to nationwide, and is expected to ease the handling of some 55 million calls made to the agency each year.

December 1, 1989: The Social Security Administration was among ten federal executives and organizations selected by the Office of Personnel Management to receive the 1989 Profiles in Excellence Award, the recognition intended to showcase the best examples for others in the federal work force to emulate.

December 15, 1989: President Bush barred an Office of Management and Budget planned reduction in the Social Security Administration’s staff. The agency which provides services to 40 million beneficiaries, saw its staff reduced to 63,000 from 80,000 over the past five years.

December 25, 1989: The Social Security Administration moved to resolve the labor disputes that have resulted in 1,600 complaints over which union activities must be paid for by SSA.

January 1, 1990: The Social Security Administration announced approval of a plan to refund Medicare overcharges to nearly 27 million elderly people due to a problem created by Congress’s late action in repealing the catastrophic health-care program. Seniors will be reimbursed for the unfair deduction with two special $10.60 checks, one in February and another in April.

January 25, 1990: A new three year contract is signed by the Social Security Administration and the American Federation of Government Employees.

February 20, 1990: The Supreme Court held in Sullivan v. Zebley that substantial parts of the Supplemental Security Income regulation on determining disability for children are inconsistent with the Social Security Act.

February 26, 1990: Social Security Commissioner Gwendolyn S. King appointed William Rogers, a 30-year veteran of the agency, as the first confidential Ombudsman at SSA. Rogers will be responsible for reviewing systemic problems brought confidentially to his attention and making recommendations to the Commissioner for addressing those problems.

May 1990: Renato A. DiPentima appointed by Commissioner King as Deputy Commissioner for Systems.

July 26, 1990: President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 into law. Commissioner King initiates a pilot project to install voice-activated computer equipment for SSA employees with disabilities.

November 5, 1990: President George H. W. Bush signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, which fully protects Social Security and takes the program off line from the rest of the Federal budget.

December 1990: SSA issued regulations revising and expanding its medical standards for assessing mental impairments in children by incorporating functional criteria into the standards and adding such impairments as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

February 1991: SSA issued regulations required by the U. S. Supreme Court in Sullivan v. Zebley to add an individualized functional assessment of children to behave in age-appropriate ways if they do not qualify for benefits based on medical standards alone.

March 18, 1991: Commissioner King and AFGE Local 1923 President John Gage cut the ribbon at the dedication of the Social Secur-A-Kiddie Child Care Center at the Metro West Building in downtown Baltimore, MD. The facility opens for business on April 1.

April 1991: Lou Enoff appointed by Commissioner King as first Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Agency. Janice L. Warden appointed Deputy Commissioner for Operations.

May 24, 1991: SSA announced it was sending a ten person management “Strike Team” to New Jersey to help clear up the state’s disability backlog, described as the worst in the Nation.

September 13, 1991: SSA closed the Western Program Service Center in Richmond, CA following the death of 37-year old Rosalind Sheffield, a janitor at the Center, and the hospitalization or infection of fifteen others from Legionnaire’s Disease. After a three million dollar cleanup to purge the structure of the Legionnella bacteria, employees returned to the facility on December 16, 1991.

September 1991: SSA’s second strategic plan (The Social Security Strategic Plan: A Framework for the Future) is published.

October 14, 1991: Thomas H. Eliot, General Counsel to the Social Security Board 1935-1938, died at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 84.

December 16, 1991: Health and Human Services Secretary Louis H. Sullivan joined Commissioner King and five members of the Maryland Congressional delegation in dedicating the Social Secur-A-Kiddie Child Care Center at SSA headquarters in Woodlawn. The new center will begin operations on January 6, 1992.

December 17, 1991: SSA issued new rules that will allow people infected with the AIDS virus to qualify for disability benefits at an earlier stage in the progression of the disease than under current rules.

September 3, 1992: The Supplemental Security Income Modernization Project, led by Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, issued its report calling for updates to the SSI Program.

September 1992: Commissioner Gwendolyn S. King submitted her letter of resignation to President Bush and will leave SSA on September 30. She will be joining the Philadelphia Electric Company as Senior Vice President for Corporate and Public Affairs.