At a Social Security disability hearing, sometimes it is very clear that the claim should be granted. In such cases, a bench decision is available to the administrative law judge. A bench decision must be a fully favorable decision.
For a bench decision, the judge sets forth his reasons for granting the claim orally "from the bench" at the hearing. The written decision that follows within a few days is just a few paragraphs in length, and basically incorporates by reference the reasons given on the record at the hearing. Bench decisions are governed by HALLEX I-5-1-17.
Bench decisions preserve scarce resources at the SSA, since staff writers do not have to spend as much time producing favorable decisions. The use of bench decisions is part of the SSA's strategic plan to be more efficient. It makes sense. If you are granting the claim, why write a lengthy decision?
The judges at the Portland, Maine ODAR use bench decisions frequently when granting a claim. And that is one of the reasons that the processing time for claims at that hearing office is one of the lowest in the country.
In contrast, judges at many other ODARs have not embraced the bench decision. I do not understand why. It is a real timesaver. Try a bench decision next time, Judge. Your staff writers will love you for it, and your hearing office director will appreciate the added efficiency, which will result in more decisions from your hearing office each month.