The Social Security Administration (SSA) is extending for two years its rule authorizing attorney advisors to conduct certain prehearing procedures and to issue fully favorable decisions. The current rule is scheduled to expire on August 10, 2009 and will be extended until 2011. 74 Fed. Reg. 33327 (July 13, 2009).
In 2007, SSA issued an interim final rule permitting some attorney advisors to conduct certain prehearing procedures. 72 Fed. Reg. 44763. SSA instituted this practice to enable the agency to provide more timely service to the increasing number of applicants for Social Security disability benefits and SSI payments based on disability. Pursuant to a 2008 final rule (73 Fed. Reg. 11349), attorney advisors could develop claims and, in appropriate cases, issue fully favorable decisions.
Since SSA expects the number of requests for hearings to continue to increase significantly in coming years, the attorney advisor program is an important part of ongoing efforts to decide cases efficiently, issue decisions timely, and reduce the number of claims pending at the hearing level.