Attorney Advisor Program Made PermanentPosted August 17, 2018 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®
On August 15, 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published a notice in the Federal Register that it is making the attorney advisor program permanent. As the notice says “The attorney advisor initiative permits some attorney advisors to develop claims, including holding prehearing conferences, and, in cases in which the documentary record clearly establishes that a fully favorable decision is warranted, issue fully favorable decisions before a hearing is conducted.” The SSA expects that by making the attorney advisor program permanent, it will be able to continue to reduce the number of pending claims at the hearing level of the administrative review process and provide more timely service to claimants.
Under the attorney advisor program, attorney advisors conduct certain prehearing proceedings and, when the record clearly establishes that a fully favorable decision is warranted, may issue a fully favorable decision before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) holds a hearing. Thus, the attorney advisor program allows the SSA to issue fully favorable decisions more quickly in appropriate cases, which, in turn, allows claimants to receive disability benefits under title II or disability payments under title XVI months, or perhaps even a year, earlier than if they had to wait for a hearing before an ALJ. As well, since attorney advisors may issue fully favorable decisions in cases that would otherwise require an ALJ to hold a hearing and issue a decision, the program allows ALJs to spend their time adjudicating more complex cases.
As an added benefit of the program, even if an attorney advisor cannot issue a fully favorable decision after conducting prehearing proceedings, the summary the attorney advisor drafts during his or her review can be valuable to the ALJ, helping to expedite the hearing process. Moreover, prehearing proceedings conducted by an attorney advisor do not delay the scheduling of a hearing unless a fully favorable decision is in process. Thus, if the attorney advisor is unable to issue a fully favorable decision after conducting prehearing proceedings, the case returns to its original place in line and continues under the SSA’s standard hearing process, with no delays caused by the attorney advisor’s review. For these reasons, making the attorney advisor program permanent benefits claimants by giving them a chance to receive a fully favorable decision more quickly and by expediting the overall hearings process, and it benefits ALJs and their support staff by allowing them to receive helpful case summaries from attorney advisors who assist with developing the record in cases that are selected for prehearing proceedings but that still require a hearing before an ALJ.
Read more of the Final Rule here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/08/15/2018-17547/making-permanent-the-attorney-advisor-program
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®