From a Bulletin issued by Social Security's Chief Administrative Law Judge:
In November 2013 we began a pilot: the National Screening Unit (NSU). The NSU Core Team will review and select cases eligible for the program and will distribute those cases to hearing office (HO) management for assignment to AAs.
AAs [Attorney Advisors] may review and sign fully favorable decisions only in cases selected by the NSU. AAs may screen other cases (i.e., those not selected by the NSU) at the direction of HO management, but they may only do so for the purposes of identifying potential Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) OTR [On The Record] decisions or assisting an ALJ with a hearing. ...
AAs can only issue a fully favorable decision when the case is referred by the NSU and the evidence supports the following:
- A claimant’s condition meets a listing at Step 3;
- A claimant’s condition medically equals a listing at Step 3, based on medical expert (ME) evidence;
- Applying the “special” medical-vocational profiles showing an inability to make an adjustment to other work (see 20 CFR 404.1562 and 416.962; Social Security Ruling 82-63); or
- Directly applying a grid rule in Appendix 2 to Subpart P of Part 404 (Medical-Vocational Guidelines) to find a claimant disabled at Step 5.
This was issued to dramatically cut down on AAs issuing decisions approving disability claims. This also has the effect of reducing Social Security's ability to deal with the growing backlogs of claimants seeking a hearing before an ALJ. However, these AA decisions came to a complete where I am even before this directive.