[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 141 (Tuesday, July 25, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 34400-34401]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-15493]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

20 CFR Parts 404 and 416

[Docket No. SSA-2017-0021]
RIN 0960-AI06


Extension of Sunset Date for Attorney Advisor Program

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We are extending for six months our rule authorizing attorney 
advisors to conduct certain prehearing proceedings and to issue fully 
favorable decisions. The current rule is scheduled to expire on August 
4, 2017. In this final rule, we are extending the sunset date to 
February 5, 2018. We are making no other substantive changes.

DATES: This final rule is effective July 25, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick McGuire, Social Security 
Administration, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3260, 703-
605-7100 for information about this final rule. For information on 
eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number, 
800-772-1213 or TTY 800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, Social 
Security Online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background of the Attorney Advisor Program

    On August 9, 2007, we issued an interim final rule permitting some 
attorney advisors to conduct certain prehearing proceedings and issue 
fully favorable decisions when the documentary record warrants doing 
so. 72 FR 44763. We instituted this practice to provide more timely 
service to the increasing number of applicants for Social Security 
disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments based on 
disability. We considered the public comments we received on the 
interim final rule, and on March 3, 2008, we issued a final rule 
without change. 73 FR 11349. Under this rule, some attorney advisors 
may develop claims and, in appropriate cases, issue fully favorable 
decisions before a hearing.
    We originally intended the attorney advisor program to be a 
temporary modification to our procedures. Therefore, we included in 
Sec. Sec.  404.942(g) and 416.1442(g) of the interim final rule a 
provision that the program would end on August 10, 2009, unless we 
decided to either terminate the rule earlier or extend it beyond that 
date by publication of a final rule in the Federal Register. Since that 
time, we have periodically extended the sunset date (see 74 FR 33327 
extending to August 10, 2011; 76 FR 18383 extending to August 9, 2013; 
and 78 FR 45459 extending to August 7, 2015). As we noted above, the 
current sunset date for the program is August 4, 2017. 80 FR 31990.

Explanation of Extension

    We published the final rule to adopt without change the interim 
final rule that we published on August 9, 2007. We stated our intent to 
monitor the program closely and to modify it if it did not meet our 
expectations. 73 FR 11349.
    We explained in the 2008 final rule that the number of requests for 
hearings had increased significantly in recent years. From 2008 to the 
present, the number of pending hearing requests has continued to remain 
at a high level, and we anticipate that we will continue to receive 
several hundred thousand hearing requests in each of the next two 
fiscal years.\1\ The attorney advisor program has assisted our efforts 
to address the high number of pending hearing requests, so we are 
extending the program at this time.
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    \1\ Our budget estimates for fiscal year 2018 (available at: 
https://www.ssa.gov/budget/FY18Files/2018BST.pdf) indicate that we 
expect to receive approximately 632,000 hearing requests in fiscal 
year 2017, and 645,000 in fiscal year 2018.
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    To preserve the maximum degree of flexibility we need to manage our 
hearings-level workloads effectively, we have decided to extend the 
attorney advisor rule for six months until February 5, 2018. As before, 
we reserve the authority to end the program earlier, to extend it by 
publishing a final rule in the Federal Register, or to discontinue it 
altogether.

Regulatory Procedures

Justification for Issuing Final Rule Without Notice and Comment

    We follow the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulemaking 
procedures specified in 5 U.S.C. 553 when developing regulations. 
Section 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5). The 
APA provides exceptions to its notice and public comment procedures 
when an agency finds there is good cause for dispensing with such 
procedures because they are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to 
the public interest. We have determined that good cause exists for 
dispensing with the notice and public comment procedures for this rule. 
5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). Good cause exists because this final rule only 
extends the sunset date of an existing rule. It makes no substantive 
changes to the rule. The current regulations expressly provide that we 
may extend or terminate this rule. Therefore, we have determined that 
opportunity for prior comment is unnecessary, and we are issuing this 
rule as a final rule.

[[Page 34401]]

    In addition, because we are not making any substantive changes to 
the existing rule, we find that there is good cause for dispensing with 
the 30-day delay in the effective date of a substantive rule provided 
by 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). To ensure that we have uninterrupted authority 
to use attorney advisors to address the number of pending cases at the 
hearing level, we find that it is in the public interest to make this 
final rule effective on the date of publication.

Executive Order 12866 as Supplemented by Executive Order 13563

    We consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and 
determined that this final rule does not meet the criteria for a 
significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, as 
supplemented by Executive Order 13563. Therefore, OMB did not review 
it.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We certify that this final rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because it 
affects individuals only. Therefore, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as 
amended, does not require us to prepare a regulatory flexibility 
analysis.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    These rules do not create any new or affect any existing 
collections and, therefore, do not require Office of Management and 
Budget approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 96.006, 
Supplemental security Income.)

List of Subjects

20 CFR Part 404

    Administrative practice and procedure, Blind, Disability benefits, 
Old-age, survivors and disability insurance, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Social security.

20 CFR Part 416

    Administrative practice and procedure, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Nancy A. Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, we are amending subpart J 
of part 404 and subpart N of part 416 of chapter III of title 20 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:

PART 404--FEDERAL OLD-AGE, SURVIVORS AND DISABILITY INSURANCE 
(1950-- )

Subpart J--[Amended]

0
1. The authority citation for subpart J of part 404 continues to read 
as follows:

    Authority:  Secs. 201(j), 204(f), 205(a)-(b), (d)-(h), and (j), 
221, 223(i), 225, and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 
U.S.C. 401(j), 404(f), 405(a)-(b), (d)-(h), and (j), 421, 423(i), 
425, and 902(a)(5)); sec. 5, Pub. L. 97-455, 96 Stat. 2500 (42 
U.S.C. 405 note); secs. 5, 6(c)-(e), and 15, Pub. L. 98-460, 98 
Stat. 1802 (42 U.S.C. 421 note); sec. 202, Pub. L. 108-203, 118 
Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note).


0
2. In Sec.  404.942, revise paragraph (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.942  Prehearing proceedings and decisions by attorney 
advisors.

* * * * *
    (g) Sunset provision. The provisions of this section will no longer 
be effective on February 5, 2018, unless we terminate them earlier or 
extend them beyond that date by notice of a final rule in the Federal 
Register.

PART 416--SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME FOR THE AGED, BLIND, AND 
DISABLED

Subpart N--[Amended]

0
3. The authority citation for subpart N of part 416 continues to read 
as follows:

    Authority:  Secs. 702(a)(5), 1631, and 1633 of the Social 
Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1383, and 1383b); sec. 202, Pub. 
L. 108-203, 118 Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note).


0
 4. In Sec.  416.1442, revise paragraph (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  416.1442  Prehearing proceedings and decisions by attorney 
advisors.

* * * * *
    (g) Sunset provision. The provisions of this section will no longer 
be effective on February 5, 2018, unless we terminate them earlier or 
extend them beyond that date by notice of a final rule in the Federal 
Register.

[FR Doc. 2017-15493 Filed 7-24-17; 8:45 am]
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