Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Social Security Icon Dies

Robert M. Ball died last night at the age of 93.

Washington is a town full of public servants and political appointees but Bob Ball was unique. Few in government invest their entire lives toward a single goal but that’s exactly what Bob did. From his youngest days as a Social Security field assistant, to ultimately becoming the Commissioner of Social Security under three Presidents, Ball worked for decades to strengthen America’s social insurance programs for our nation’s elderly, disabled, survivors and their families.

Even in “retirement” Ball served on commissions and advisory boards, including the 1983 Greenspan Commission. He wrote books and crafted proposals for new Social Security reforms, including a three-point plan many consider a good blueprint for the future. Just a few months ago he took the Washington Post to task in a Letter to Editor in October. You just have to love someone who was still so engaged in an issue that at 93 he felt compelled to rattle off a letter to the Post to correct one of their (all too common) Social Security mistakes.

Our President & CEO, Barbara Kennelly, served on the Ways and Means committee during the 1983 Greenspan Commission and has known Bob Ball for decades. Here are her thoughts:

“It is not an understatement to say that generations of Americans owe their retirement security and wellbeing to Bob Ball’s tireless ommitment to preserve, protect and strengthen Social Security. Not only did he serve as Commissioner of Social Security under three Presidents, he was actively involved in virtually every Social Security development over the past 60 years. His firm belief in social insurance programs, including Medicare, helped to ensure that seniors, the disabled and their families would continue to thrive in spite of health
challenges and financial constraints.

Bob understood the balance between policy and politics. He mentored, educated, and encouraged so many of us, inside and outside of government, to remain committed to strengthen Social Security for future generations. He was one of my personal heroes.

Bob Ball’s voice will be missed but his legacy will continue to motivate us to ensure America’s seniors, survivors and the disabled will not be forgotten in Washington.”

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