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.
The last two hearings attended by my colleague Collette Cushing both resulted in bench decisions. A bench decision results from excellent preparation and consistent testimony. A good hearing brief helps to pave the way for a bench decision as well.
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 authorized by regulation, see 20 CFR 404.953(b), and 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. It makes sense. If you are granting the claim, why write a lengthy decision?