A New Senior Attorney Program May Reduce Case Backlogs
In an effort to reduce the hearing level case backlog plaguing the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) the Social Security Administration (SSA) has created a National Adjudication Team (NAT). The NAT is group of full-time, senior attorneys, termed Attorney Advisors (AAs), who have been given the authority to issue fully favorable decisions in cases that are already likely to receive favorable decisions if they were to go before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
The national ODAR will select and assign the cases to the AAs. The AAs have been authorized to screen cases, conduct pre-hearing reviews, and use electronic tools as specified by the ODAR in a Chief Judge Bulletin (CJB), which outlines NAT procedures and protocols.
There are a number of functions AAs are not allowed to perform. These include, but are not limited to: discussing certain aspects of a case with an unrepresented claimant, taking sworn testimony, obtaining consultative examinations, reopening prior decisions made by an ALJ the Appeals Council, or a court, and dismissing a case.
If an AA determines that a case warrants a fully favorable decision, he or she will draft that decision, which is then subject to a quality review. If an AA determines that a fully favorable decision cannot be made, he or she will include an explanation for that determination in the case file and turn the case over to an ALJ for resolution.