Recognizing the historical contributions of African American leaders to the administration of the nation’s social insurance programs 

This Black History Month the National Academy of Social Insurance wishes to recognize two African American public servants most recently appointed to lead the nation’s major federal social insurance programs at the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Acting Commissioner of SSA Kilolo Kijakazi and Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure at CMS join other celebrated Black leaders in social insurance, including former heads of SSA, CMS, and the Department of Labor, which plays a role in state-based social insurance programs, Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance.  

Acting Commissioner Kijakazi and Administrator Brooks-LaSure were each appointed to their positions in 2021. Brooks-LaSure became the first Black administrator confirmed to lead Medicare and Medicaid on May 25, 2021. 

Learn more about the illustrious Black leaders who have helped shape social insurance policy at the highest levels. 

This post was originally published in February 2020 and has been updated to include recently appointed leaders. 


(In reverse chronological order) 

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where she will oversee programs including Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the health insurance marketplace.

A former policy official who played a key role in guiding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through passage and implementation, Brooks-LaSure has decades of experience in the federal government, on Capitol Hill, and in the private sector.  

As deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and earlier at the Department of Health & Human Services as director of coverage policy, Brooks-LaSure led the agency’s implementation of ACA coverage and insurance reform policy provisions.  

Earlier in her career, Brooks-LaSure assisted House leaders in passing several health care laws, including the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 and the ACA, as part of the Democratic staff for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee.  

Brooks-LaSure began her career as a program examiner and lead Medicaid analyst for the Office of Management and Budget, coordinating Medicaid policy development for the health financing branch. Her role included evaluating policy options and briefing White House and federal agency officials on policy recommendations with regard to the uninsured, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

Kilolo Kijakazi 

Kilolo Kijakazi currently serves as Acting Commissioner at the U.S. Social Security Administration. Prior to her appointment as Acting Commissioner under the Social Security Act, Dr. Kijakazi served as the Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at SSA from January 2021- July 2021. During her time as Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Kijakazi advised the Commissioner on policy issues and was responsible for planning and managing the development of program policy, policy research and evaluation, and statistical programs to inform programs administered by SSA. These programs include Retirement and Survivors Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Supplemental Security Income. 

From 2014 – 2021, Dr. Kijakazi served as an Institute fellow at the Urban Institute where she developed collaborative partnerships to expand and strengthen Urban’s rigorous research agenda, effectively communicate findings to diverse audiences, and recruit and retain a diverse research staff at all levels. Dr. Kijakazi also conducted research in the areas of economic security, structural racism, and the racial wealth gap. 

A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 1999, Dr. Kijakazi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York, Binghamton, a Master of Social Work degree from Howard University, and a PhD in public policy from the George Washington University. 

Carolyn W. Colvin

Carolyn W. Colvin served as Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) from 2011 to 2013, after being nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate in 2010. Colvin stepped down as Acting Commissioner in January 2017. Previously, she served as Deputy Commissioner of SSA, having been nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate in 2010. Colvin began her public service career in Maryland in the office of U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes in 1982. Her distinguished public service career includes positions for the City of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, as well as other positions at SSA. A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 2011, Ms. Colvin received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Business Administration from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. 


Alexis M. Herman

Alexis M. Herman served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1997 to 2005. She brought more than two decades of leadership to the position of and spent her entire career on the front line of the changing workforce – as a businesswoman, a government executive, and a community leader – developing, promoting, and implementing policies to benefit workers and to increase opportunities and skills for the hard-to-employ. Before joining President Clinton’s Cabinet, Herman served in the administration as assistant to the President and director of the White House Public Liaison Office. She served as the 23rd Secretary of Labor and the first African American to head the department. Herman led the Department of Labor to focus its work on three goals: a prepared workforce, a secure workforce and a quality workforce. Secretary Herman received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Xavier University in New Orleans. 

William Toby, Jr.

William Toby, Jr., served as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), for 18 months from 1992-1993. He is a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and has been a private healthcare consultant since retiring in 1996 from his position as Regional Administrator of HCFA. Toby has served on many public service boards, received a number of prestigious awards, and holds a Master’s Degree in health administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, a Master’s in social work from Adelphi University, a Bachelor’s in Spanish and psychology from West Virginia State University, an honorable doctorate in podiatric medicine, and holds advanced certificates in Spanish from the Universities of Leon and Toledo in Spain. 

In 1991, at the recommendation of then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, President George H. W. Bush appointed Toby a U.S. Delegate to the first and historic African & African-American Summit, which was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The Summit brought together the heads of four African nations with distinguished African American leaders to discuss the African Diaspora and how the American leaders could assist their ancestral homeland. In 2012, New York Governor Cuomo appointed Toby to the prestigious Medicaid Redesign Workgroup for a study of safety net hospitals in Brooklyn, NY. Later, in 2015, Governor Cuomo appointed Toby Co-Chair of the State’s Medicaid Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) designed to use $9 billion to transform the State’s health care delivery system move away from the acute care system. In 2015, following an earlier commendation by the Puerto Rico Legislature, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce and the Puerto Rico Medicare Coalition presented Toby with a prestigious Life Achievement Award for his forty-five years of assistance to the Puerto Rico health sector. 

Gwendolyn King

Gwendolyn King was appointed Commissioner of the Social Security Administration from 1989 to 1992, by President George H. W. Bush. After stepping down, she took on a senior vice president position at Philadelphia Electric Company. Prior to her appointment at SSA, King held illustrious positions including, executive vice president at Gogol & Associates, Inc., tenure in the White House as Deputy Assistant to President Reagan, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Director of then Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh’s D.C. office, Senior Legislative Assistant to Senator John Heinz, and director of the Division of Consumer Complaints for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. King earned her bachelor’s degree in French and education from Howard University. 





Posted on: February 27, 2023

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