On August 15, 2018, SSA made permanent its Attorney Advisor (AA) program. Through this program, AAs are able to develop case files, engage claimants in prehearing conferences, and issue fully favorable decisions on the record (OTR) without the need for an ALJ hearing. 83 Fed. Reg. 40451 (Aug. 15, 2018) https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-08-15/pdf/2018-17625.pdf
The AA program began in 1995. It was originally designed as a two-year temporary program, but has been renewed periodically. Before the notice making the AA program permanent, it had been scheduled to expire in August 2019.
Although AAs are allowed to issue fully favorable OTR decisions, they have not done so for the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2018. Many AAs were diverted from their usual duties so they could help address SSA’s backlog of cases that needed decisions written after hearings. With the hearing and decision-writing backlogs decreasing, SSA has said that it plans to move some support staff away from decision-writing and back to their regular jobs.