Commissioner of the Social Security Administration: Who Is Carolyn Colvin?

Saturday, August 02, 2014

On June 20, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Carolyn Watts Colvin to be commissioner of Social Security. Colvin has been serving in the job in an acting capacity since February 14, 2013. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Finance on July 31 was without controversy.


Colvin was born May 27, 1942, in Arnold, Maryland, the state in which she has spent her entire life. She graduated from segregated Wiley H. Bates High School in Annapolis. Colvin’s first professional jobs were for the City of Baltimore, beginning in 1969 in the Department of Housing and Community Development. While working for the city, she attended night school at Morgan State University, earning a B.S. in Business Administration in 1971 and later an MBA from the same school.


In 1982, Colvin jumped into politics, working as a field organizer for Democrat Paul Sarbanes, who was running for Senate from Maryland. When he won, Colvin was named his director of field operations, serving until 1984. She then returned to Baltimore, becoming the city health department’s deputy commissioner for administration.


Colvin moved to Maryland’s state government in 1988, as deputy secretary for operations in the state’s Department of Human Resources. The following year, she was appointed by Gov. William Schaefer to be the department’s secretary, responsible for administering state assistance programs.


While in that position, Colvin authored a controversial plan that tied some assistance benefits to children’s school attendance and getting preventative medical care. Although it was instituted in a time of cutbacks in state government, Colvin insisted its purpose was to encourage parents to take better care of their children and not to cut benefits. Critics said the cuts hurt children, who often had no say in whether they attended school or got health care.


In 1994, Colvin got her first taste of the Social Security Administration (SSA) when she was named deputy commissioner for policy and external affairs in the Clinton Administration. In 1998, she was put in charge of Programs and Policy and in 1998 she was named deputy administrator for operations.


With the end of the Clinton Administration, Colvin was named director of human services for the District of Columbia, taking over a department said to be in disarray. After two years, she moved to suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, to lead its department of Health and Human Services. Colvin took her first private-sector job in 2007, as chief executive officer of Amerigroup Community Care, an HMO in Washington D.C. In 2009, Colvin was named special assistant to Maryland’s secretary of transportation.


Colvin joined the Obama Administration in December 2010 as deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, serving until her term ended in 2013, at the same time as that of Commissioner Michael Astrue. At that time, Colvin was named acting commissioner.


One of her major decisions in her current job was to halt collection of decades-old Social Security overpayments from beneficiaries or their descendants. Some people found their refunds from 2013 income taxes attached to settle overpayments of which they had no knowledge and derived no benefit. In April, Colvin halted the collections.


If confirmed, Colvin will serve the remainder of the six-year term that began when Astrue stepped down. Colvin will have to deal with the closing of Social Security offices and the halting of some services to clients. The service cutbacks come in response to flat funding levels for the SSA despite a sharp increase in those receiving benefits.


Colvin is a widow who has two sons, one of whom is deceased, and six grandchildren.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Spotlight: Carolyn W. Colvin (Destiny-Pride)

Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner (by Jody Brannon, National Journal)

See all 22 comments


Margaret Ferrer 3 weeks ago
I told the case worker the doctor was going to call him to see which paper he need, and that when he declined my case.He had up December 13 to get information, he has been mistreating me since this case started.
, please excuse me for writing to you but for almost five months I have trying to collect my spousal benefits. I received my first check in April 2016 but then was convinced by a representative of SS not to collect since it could affect our medicaid benefits and I should wait until I am 65. Social Security suspended my benefits, but after discussing this with another representative I told them to reinstate my benefits. This has been going on for 5 months. My social security number is 153-48-3515, my name is Maryanne Alverio and my husband is Michael Alverio 134-38-8145 and we live at 230 Sophee Lane, Lakewood, NJ 08701, tel nr. 732-970-3282. Every time I have called over the past months, I get an agent who says they will reinstate or un suspend and put a rush of 30 days, since both my husband and I are disabled and I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and lupus. My husband collects 1400/month and we have tried to live on this but now we are on the verge of loosing our electric and apartment and could become homeless. I went to the Brick, NJ office and after waiting for some time and explaining my situation, they told me they had nothing about my phone calls or anything to un suspend my benefits. After 5 months I now have an appointment on 1 Sept. which I assume requires more paperwork. I do not understand why after month after month I was told by Social Security I would start receiving again my benefits in 30 days. I know it is not your concern but I am scheduled for surgery in two weeks and cannot afford to purchase food or personal items I would need after surgery. I am in severe pain and going to your SS office in Brick, NJ is a hardship for me, and I don't understand why I was lied to month after month that I would be receiving my benefits. I need your help or please direct this email to some who can help and not just a robotic representative who does not do what they say they will for me. I thank you in advance and am hoping some how you can help me. Sincerely, Maryanne Alverio
Jonathan Arterton 4 months ago
I have no idea if this will reach anyone. I turned 70 last October and have not been able to collect my benefits. I've been trying to return a payment made by direct deposit to my account last summer so that I can cancel my July application and re-apply for benefits to start in October at my full age 70 rate. I've called every three weeks and made several visits to my local office with no result.
Deborah S 4 months ago
Having a serious issue with my benefits. I need your help. Please help me. Send me a contact number that I can talk to you or your assistant. The office in my area is very difficult to deal with creating extreme anxiety. Thank you Deborah
Eric McAlister 5 months ago
I have been trying to get my Social Security checks fixed for approximately 3.5 months with no avail. I have talked to 5 different people in the last 3.5 months and after todays discussion I find I haven't been treated truthfully or fairly. If I would owe the government money I would have to take care of it immediately or be find and penalized. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.
Trisendra Sharma 6 months ago
Three letters has been sent to the field office located at 2500 Fontaine RD, San Jose, CA. 95121 effective from December 26th, 2015 in respect to their incorrect information on my Discontinuation of benefits. However none of my letters has been replied todate. That clearly indicates a unprofessional act by the office, where ordinary citizens are victims
100%TDIU Army VET 9 months ago ALSO BRAVE ACT - Why is this on the SSA policy page if the redding social security office and roseville DDS says they do not have to follow it! I am 100% TDIU army vet with 2 doctors saying im unemployable yet SSA HAS CUT MY BENEFITS!!!! I thought the whole point of BRAVE ACT was to help wounded warriors not CUT ALL BENEFITS!!!!!
Deirdre Sanders 10 months ago
The SSA system that is suppose to aide the American Public is in desperate disarray. Just a FYI in case you haven't notice. So, let me the first to inform you while you sit idle by while your Oakland ODAR Investigative Staff watch ME DIE! With their silly little games they continue to play with me regarding a 10 yr old SSA/SDI claim that has be remanded over 7 times. Time enough for my tumor in enlarge and place me in a serious TERMINALLY ILL MEDICAL STATE! You think that would warrant some assistance from the US OF COVER UP! MAYBE WHEN I'M DEAD I CAN COUNT ON YOU FOR THE MEASLY $200.00 FOR A $1,500 HEAD STONE! THANKS A BUNCH
donna lackey 10 months ago
I have been trying to get my direct deposit changed since sept 3rd and all they tell me is they are working and it. Now they say it will be another 2 months more after the send them another email. I has or will be 6 month with nothing to show for it. I want something done. I hope the right people see this and helps me
barbara miller 1 year ago
I live in Morrisville Vermont I am having problems with the burlington Vermont office. I have been trying find out what happened to the money i was told was taken out for a 2011 overpayment that was only 646 dollars that I earned for 2011. Ialso tried to collect benefits from my former husband i was told i dont qualifiy because we should have remarried a year after we were divorced no one at the social secuity office me this until four years ago when i turned 62. there is so much going on in my records some falsed in to cover what was called a mistake back in January 2014. I wish there was a way to really talk with you but i there are other people with issues as well please the is no one complain too. hope this will show you some light on how we have problems that are not addressed.

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