The Virtual Screening Unit: What Is It and How Can It Help Your Claim?

At some point after your Request for Hearing has been filed, you may receive a notice by the Social Security Administration that your case has been transferred to the Virtual Screening Unit (VSU).

What is the Virtual Screening Unit?

The Virtual Screening Unit is a division in the Social Security Administration comprised of senior attorneys who review and identify cases that they believe are strong enough to be granted without having to wait for a hearing before an administrative law judge.  In these instances, these senior attorneys, supervised by an administrative law judge, act as adjudicators and approve claimants for benefits.

Senior attorneys also often work with a claimant or a representative in working up the file, such as requesting specific medical information from a specific doctor or requesting that a narrative be written by a treating physician supporting the fact that existing limitations prevent a claimant from returning to work.  In these instances, a senior attorney may, at his or her discretion, hold a case while this information is being gathered.

How are cases sent to the Virtual Screening Unit?

Unfortunately, there is no way to send a case to the Virtual Screening Unit for review; they are sent for review at the discretion of the Social Security Administration.  In our experience, a claim is more likely to be sent to the Virtual Screening Unit if there are up-to-date medical records and the claimant is an older individual, typically fifty years of age and above.

Is the Virtual Screening Unit the only way to get my case granted without a hearing?

No.  Fortunately, there are ways to have your case reviewed for approval by a senior attorney that don’t involve the Virtual Screening Unit.  Senior attorneys at the hearing office assigned to your claim also review cases to see if they may be granted without having to proceed to a hearing.  Many times, these reviews are conducted at the request of a representative through the submission of an “On the Record” request.

Is my case weak if it a senior attorney decides to not grant my case?

No.  As mentioned before, cases that are granted by a senior attorney are based solely on the medical evidence in the file at the time they are reviewed.  Often times, medical records do not describe the extent to which an impairment impacts a claimant, and his or her testimony is needed.  Other times it may simply be an instance in which one adjudicator does not share the same opinion as another adjudicator in reviewing a case for approval.

Further, senior attorneys may only write “Fully Favorable” decisions. This means that if there is a technical issue such as an older alleged onset date or date last insured, the senior attorney may decline to approve it.  This does not mean, however, that an administrative law judge will see the case the same way.