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Extension of Sunset Date for Attorney Advisor Program

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AGENCY:

Social Security Administration.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

We are extending for 2 years our rule authorizing attorney advisors to conduct certain prehearing procedures and to issue fully favorable decisions. The current rule will expire on August 9, 2013. In this final rule, we are extending the sunset date to August 7, 2015. We are making no other substantive changes.

DATES:

This final rule is effective July 29, 2013.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Susan Swansiger, Social Security Administration, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3260, 703-605-8500 for information about this final rule. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, Social Security Online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

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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 procedures and issue decisions that are fully favorable when the documentary record warrants. 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 the rule without change as a final rule. 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 only a temporary modification to our procedures. Therefore, we included in sections 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. On July 13, 2009, we published a final rule that extended the sunset date of the program until August 10, 2011. 74 FR 33327. We then published another extension on April 4, 2011, which extended the sunset date of the program until August 9, 2013. 76 FR 18383.

Explanation of Extension

When we published the final rules reinstating the attorney advisor program in 2008, we discussed a variety of concerns about the program and we stated our intent to closely monitor it and to make changes to the program if it did not meet our expectations. 73 FR 11349, 11350, 11351, and 11352.

As we explained in the final rule in 2008, the number of requests for hearings has increased significantly in recent years, and based on this trend, we anticipate that higher levels of request for hearings will continue. The attorney advisor program has proven to be an invaluable tool in our efforts to reduce the backlog of pending hearing requests.

Accordingly, we have decided to extend the attorney advisor rule for another 2 years, until August 7, 2015. As before, we are reserving the authority to end the program earlier or to extend it by publishing a final rule in the Federal Register.

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.

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.

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

This final rule does not create any new or affect any existing collections and, therefore, does not require OMB 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.)

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List of Subjects

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Dated: July 22, 2013.

Carolyn W. Colvin,

Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

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

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

Subpart J—[Amended].

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

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Authority: Secs. 201(j), 204(f), 205(a)-(b), (d)-(h), and (j), 221, 223(i), 225, and 702(a)(5) Start Printed Page 45460of 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).

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

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Prehearing proceedings and decisions by attorney advisors.
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(g) Sunset provision. The provisions of this section will no longer be effective on August 7, 2015, unless we terminate them earlier or extend them beyond that date by notice of a final rule in the Federal Register.

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

Subpart N—[Amended].

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3. The authority citation for subpart N continues to read as follows:

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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).

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

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Prehearing proceedings and decisions by attorney advisors.
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(g) Sunset provision. The provisions of this section will no longer be effective on August 7, 2015, unless we terminate them earlier or extend them beyond that date by notice of a final rule in the Federal Register.

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[FR Doc. 2013-18145 Filed 7-26-13; 8:45 am]

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