Embattled Social Security Watchdog Resigns

July 2, 2024

After a tumultuous five-year tenure, Social Security Inspector General Gail Ennis called it quits.

For years, Ms. Ennis has been accused of mismanagement of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which is supposed to oversee the Social Security Administration (SSA) to promote efficiency, effectiveness and economy.

The OIG is also tasked with preventing and detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in SSA programs.

Among her responsibilities was oversight of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which has been at the center of a controversy in recent months for clawing back benefits from people with disabilities who were paid too much money through no fault of their own.

Further, it was alleged that she tried to bar a major investigation into the agency, retaliated against whistleblowers, and created a hostile work environment. Morale at the SSA has plummeted over the past five years.

Her office also was accused of improperly assessing massive fines, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, against people with low incomes and health impairments without due process.

While the SSA implemented fines for violating SSA rules before her tenure, there was a giant increase in the size of the fines when she was at the helm. Media reports of the ballooning fines caught the attention of Congress, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation. In a report submitted in March of this year, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz called out Ennis for stonewalling his probe by ordering SSA staff to refuse comment to investigators and by withholding documents herself.

In a letter last fall to President Biden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote, “Since taking the helm at SSA OIG, her office has gone from one of the highest performing in government, to one in disarray. Under her leadership, SSA OIG has been plagued by complaints of a hostile work environment, retaliatory civil lawsuits filed against fellow employees, abysmal staff morale ratings and falling productivity.”

His letter continued, “rather than taking accountability, Inspector General Ennis has provided empty promises, refused to acknowledge her shortcomings and attempted to discredit the whistleblowers she was found to have retaliated against.”

Ms. Ennis was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race, and she donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. In turn, Trump rewarded her support with two government jobs. In addition to the Social Security OIG post, she was also given the job of Inspector General for the Department of Interior for several months.

In her resignation letter, Gail Ennis described the agency she had run for five years as “vibrant” and thanked her colleagues.