§ 404.942. Prehearing proceedings and decisions by attorney advisors.

(a) General. After a hearing is requested but before it is held, an attorney advisor may conduct prehearing proceedings as set out in paragraph (c) of this section. If after the completion of these proceedings we can make a decision that is fully favorable to you and all other parties based on the preponderance of the evidence, an attorney advisor, instead of an administrative law judge, may issue the decision. The conduct of the prehearing proceedings by the attorney advisor will not delay the scheduling of a hearing. If the prehearing proceedings are not completed before the date of the hearing, the case will be sent to the administrative law judge unless a fully favorable decision is in process or you and all other parties to the hearing agree in writing to delay the hearing until the proceedings are completed.

(b) When prehearing proceedings may be conducted by an attorney advisor. An attorney advisor may conduct prehearing proceedings if you have filed a claim for benefits based on disability and—

(1) New and material evidence is submitted;

(2) There is an indication that additional evidence is available;

(3) There is a change in the law or regulations; or

(4) There is an error in the file or some other indication that a fully favorable decision may be issued.

(c) Nature of the prehearing proceedings that may be conducted by an attorney advisor. As part of the prehearing proceedings, the attorney advisor, in addition to reviewing the existing record, may—

(1) Request additional evidence that may be relevant to the claim, including medical evidence; and

(2) If necessary to clarify the record for the purpose of determining if a fully favorable decision is warranted, schedule a conference with the parties.

(d) Notice of a decision by an attorney advisor. If an attorney advisor issues a fully favorable decision under this section, we will mail a written notice of the decision to all parties at their last known addresses. We will state the basis for the decision and advise all parties that they may request that an administrative law judge reinstate the request for a hearing if they disagree with the decision for any reason. Any party who wants to make this request must do so in writing and send it to us within 60 days of the date he or she receives notice of the decision. The administrative law judge will extend the time limit if the requestor shows good cause for missing the deadline. The administrative law judge will use the standards in § 404.911 to determine whether there is good cause. If the request is timely, an administrative law judge will reinstate the request for a hearing and offer all parties an opportunity for a hearing.

(e) Effect of an attorney advisor's decision. An attorney advisor's decision under this section is binding unless—

(1) You or another party to the hearing submits a timely request that an administrative law judge reinstate the request for a hearing under paragraph (d) of this section;

(2) The Appeals Council reviews the decision on its own motion pursuant to § 404.969 as explained in paragraph (f)(3) of this section; or

(3) The decision of the attorney advisor is revised under the procedures explained in § 404.987.

(f) Ancillary provisions. For the purposes of the procedures authorized by this section, the regulations of part 404 shall apply to—

(1) Authorize an attorney advisor to exercise the functions performed by an administrative law judge under §§ 404.1520a, 404.1526, 404.1527, and 404.1546.

(2) Define the term “decision” to include a decision made by an attorney advisor, as well as the decisions identified in § 404.901; and

(3) Make the decision of an attorney advisor under paragraph (d) of this section subject to review by the Appeals Council if the Appeals Council decides to review the decision of the attorney advisor anytime within 60 days after the date of the decision under § 404.969.

(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.

[60 FR 34131, June 30, 1995, as amended at 63 FR 35516, June 30, 1998; 64 FR 13678, Mar. 22, 1999; 64 FR 51893, Sept. 27, 1999; 72 FR 44765, Aug. 9, 2007; 73 FR 76944, Dec. 18, 2008; 74 FR 33328, July 13, 2009; 76 FR 18384, Apr. 4, 2011; 76 FR 65370, Oct. 21, 2011; 78 FR 45460, July 29, 2013]