There are approximately 1,300 American Samoa residents receiving Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) each month. There are even more residents currently backlogged in the Social Security Disability appeal process and even more applicants will be filing brand new claims for disability benefits this year. Unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of these new claims will be denied by the SSA if history is any indication of future approval rates. This will add even more appeals to the already backlogged system. To make matters worse, the applicants who are denied during the initial stage of the application process are usually denied during the first stage of appeals as well.
For an American Samoa Social Security Disability applicant, the first stage of appeals is the Request for Reconsideration. More than 80 percent of these requests are denied by the SSA. These applicants must then go on to request a disability hearing before an administrative law judge – a task that could take more than a year to achieve.
While the average disability benefit of $822.50 per month definitely helps those who are suffering from a disabling condition that prevents them from being able to work, the fact of the matter is that it gets harder and harder for American Samoa Social Security Disability applicants to wait as time draws on. It takes an American Samoa Social Security Disability applicant nearly a year to obtain a hearing before an administrative law judge. It then takes another 45 to 90 days after the hearing to receive notice regarding whether or not the judge overseeing the case decided in your favor.
The reason is due to the backlog of cases being heard by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The area of the nation that you live in determines which ODAR office is responsible for handling the scheduling of your disability hearing. For residents living in American Samoa, the ODAR office that is in charge of scheduling disability hearings for American Samoa Social Security Disability applicants is located in Honolulu, Hawaii. It takes this office an average of 315 days to schedule a disability hearing for Social Security Disability applicants.
Hiring an American Samoa Social Security Disability Attorney
It will take approximately four months for an American Samoa Social Security Disability applicant to complete the initial stage of the application process. It then takes another four months to complete the reconsideration request, which is the first stage of appeals. By the time an applicant needs to file for a disability hearing, they are already eight months or more into the disability claim process. Add another 315 days for the hearing to be scheduled, and you begin to see why so many American Samoa Social Security Disability applicants are daunted by the process.
Many American Samoa Social Security Disability applicants wonder if there is anything they can do to speed up the approval of their benefits and avoid the disability appeal process. In some cases this is indeed possible, but you will need the services of a qualified American Samoa Social Security Disability lawyer.
When you hire a qualified American Samoa Social Security Disability attorney to help you with your disability case, he or she will assist you in the completion of your disability claim forms and will ensure that you have gathered enough medical evidence to prove your claim to the SSA. Your American Samoa Social Security Disability lawyer will also ensure that your application is presented to the SSA in the best light possible, increasing your chances of an approval at the initial application stage and thereby avoiding the appeal process altogether.
If, even with the help of your attorney, your initial disability application is still denied by the SSA, your American Samoa Social Security Disability lawyer will assist you through the steps of the disability appeal process and will be able to prepare you for your disability hearing before an administrative law judge.
You are allowed to represent yourself at this hearing, but statistics show that applicants who are represented by a qualified attorney are more likely to be awarded benefits than applicants who choose to represent themselves. The good news is that nearly two-thirds of applicants are awarded disability benefits as a result of this hearing and that hiring an attorney to represent you does not have to cost you any money up front, since most of these professionals work on a contingency basis.
Click here if you would like to learn more about hiring an American Samoa Social Security Disability attorney or to receive a free evaluation of your Social Security Disability case.