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Dorcas Hardy, first woman to lead Social Security Administration, dies at 73

  December 4, 2019 | By Adam Bernstein, Washington Post

Dorcas R. Hardy, who rose through President Ronald Reagan’s political circle to become the first female commissioner of Social Security, a role in which she sounded an early alarm about the entitlement program’s projected shortfalls as baby boomers approached retirement, died Nov. 28 at her home in Spotsylvania, Va. She was 73.

The cause was small vessel disease of the brain, said her husband, Samuel V. Spagnolo.

A specialist in health-care management, Ms. Hardy first worked for Reagan in the early 1970s when he was California governor and she served as assistant secretary of the state’s health department. She said she came to admire his limited-government conservatism and philosophy of helping but not coddling society’s vulnerable populations.

She volunteered on his losing presidential campaign in 1976 as well as his winning bid in 1980, then joined the new administration as an assistant secretary of health and human services. One of the highest-profile women in official Washington, she displayed a brusquely efficient style that surprised some legislators and union leaders who had “expected someone polite and demure,” she told the Christian Science Monitor.

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