A bit of good news was announced today by the Social Security Administration: The Federal Register reports that the Attorney Advisor program has been extended to August 10, 2011.
This program, which applies to Social Security Disability claims, authorizes attorney advisors to conduct certain pre-hearing procedures and to issue fully favorable decisions after a Disability claim is appealed to the Office of Hearings and Appeals. The program had initially been slated to expire on August 10, 2009, so this two year extension is clearly an acknowledgement of the success of the program. The Federal Register acknowledges that "[t]he attorney advisor program is an important part of our ongoing efforts to decide cases efficiently, issue decisions timely, and reduce the number of claims pending at the hearing level."
As a Disability attorney I view this news extremely positively. What it means is that if a case is strong enough to win without a hearing, there are additional people, besides the VERY busy Administrative Law Judges, whom I can approach to discuss the merits of a Disability claim.
Ultimately, what the extension of this program means is that some claimants will get favorable resolution of their claims without waiting the full 12-24 months that is typically expected to have a hearing.