Oct 11, 2011

The Advocator Group Takes On The Hard Cases

This is from a press release:
You’re disabled, you’re not getting benefits, and you wonder if you’re entitled. But you’re also afraid of interacting with a federal bureaucracy, a paper intensive process, and giving one wrong answer that could disqualify you from benefits. You’re why The Advocator Group released Disability Answers, a free mobile app that tells disabled Americans whether they’ll qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Medicare. 
Try working through it. The big question is whether you have one of the 100 conditions on the compassionate allowances list. By the way, isn't that name, Advocator Group, lovely?

Update: The Washington Post has picked up on this press release. By the way, for anyone who can't figure it out, "Takes On The Hard Cases" is written sarcastically. The Advocator Group is only seeking cases that will be approved immediately with or without their help, the kind of case I don't take on because I don't want to rip off anyone, especially someone who is desperately ill.


Anonymous said...

The way SSA is turning down cases now they are ALL getting to be tough cases.

Anonymous said...

The Advocator Group is one of those "non-attorney" groups that advertises to insurance companies that they obtain reimbursement to the insurance company for LTD payments if the SSA DIB claim is approved. They do this by having the claimant sign an authorization allowing them to debit their bank account! They also make the claimant sign an authorization allowing Advocator Group to turn over all their medical info to the insurance co. They are in Massachusetts, and Mass. legal ethics would not permit an attorney to represent two potentially competing interests like this. Therefore, the "non-attorney" group formed by a sustaining NOSSCR member attorney and run out of that attorney's office -- same address, even the same suite number. Wonder what the Mass. Board of Bar Overseers would have to say to this guy?

Anonymous said...

Looking at this post, lay people might think you think they are swell.

Anonymous said...

They use attorneys at the hearing level.

Anonymous said...

Taking compassionate allowances is like shooting fish in a barrel with a sawed-off shotgun; touting the fact that you're taking these cases is like trying to get on the cover of Fisherman magazine based on your great skill at slaughtering defenseless fish with a shotgun.

John Herling said...

You won't find "advocator" in the dictionary. The word is "advocate".

Anonymous said...

Yes. But advocate was probably already taken. Plus, I think it is the title of a gay rights publication.

How about the "We Only Take Clients Who Will be Approved on the Initial Claim Group?"

Social Security News said...

I received this comment by e-mail so I know that Mr. Gallagher posted it but it's not there. I'm re-posting it for him to make sure it gets posted.

Mr. Hall,

In the interest of transparency, I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify a couple points not only about our new smartphone app, but also about the work that we do at The Advocator Group.

The Disability Answers mobile application was designed to be first and foremost an educational resource for disabled workers who may be eligible for SSDI benefits and/or Medicare. In our experience, there are many disabled workers who are eligible for these benefits, but unaware that they would qualify. Additionally, many of these individuals lack an awareness of the fact that they can get help in filing their applications.

The app allows the user to determine his or her likelihood of approval for benefits by answering a series of simple questions. As you experienced when you downloaded and experimented with the app, after entering a few basic data points at Step 1, the user is asked to determine whether their condition appears on the list of Compassionate Allowance conditions (CAL), or alternatively, may select “I do not have a diagnosis included in this list.” This is a logical progression – as you know, if an individual has a CAL condition, many subsequent qualifying questions become unnecessary – the individual is categorically going to have a high likelihood of approval.

Alternatively, when a user selects “I do not have a diagnosis on this list,” they then access a series of additional questions necessary for the app to identify the specific nature of the individual’s disabling condition. Based on the responses to these questions, the app calculates a likelihood of SSDI approval, which is presented to the individual in an easy to understand format.

To address your concerns head on, The Advocator Group is not only seeking cases that will be approved immediately. The app is not designed to encourage individuals with CAL conditions to work with us, or to apply for SSDI, any more so than any other qualified individual. In fact the vast majority of our clients do not suffer from CAL conditions. However, failing to include this inquiry in our smartphone app would be ignoring a crucial step in determining one’s likelihood of approval for benefits.

I would encourage anyone with questions or concerns about our new smartphone app or about the work that we do at The Advocator Group to contact me at cgallagher@advocator.com, or alternatively, to continue this dialogue on Mr. Hall’s blog. We stand behind the work that we do and we are enthusiastic about our emerging communication methods with our current and future clients.

Chris Gallagher

Anonymous said...

I work for the advocator group and we do have attorneys that represent you at the hearing level (which is after the Reconsideration appeal level). And the reimbursement process is already something that your long term carrier notifies you on. They refer you to us. We explain the reimbursement process all the way through. Yes, we have you sign representation forms that explains this as well. The reimbursment is something your long term disability carriers calculates themselves. Not us. We do not debit your bank account without written and verbal consent. Which is obtained when your last due benfits are deposited by the administration into your account. This is money you've already obtained from your LTD. Which is also called "double-dipping". We assist with facilitating those funds. But you can do it in your own. Looks like someone either didn't explain the process enough to you. We also deal with the entire country and follow that states laws. Not Just mass (which we are based in). We obtain your medical records (with your authorization) from your LTD etc and forward those to the administration. We do all this so you don't have to. Anyways I hope that clarified some things for you and others reading this as well. We cannot authorize or obtain anything without consent from the claimant. There are federal, state and HIPAA laws that I and the other employees are bound to. Sounds like you had a bad experience maybe? Unfortunately not all claimants have a wonderful experience. Its not meant to be relaxing. But we do try to take the overwhelming stress and pressure away from you as best we can.

kiki said...

They're wonderfully helpful about the first 3 years the last two (hearing level) you'd think you had no representation I had to call multiple times to find out what was even going on, I got round about answers. The day of my hearing I was prepared with everything I needed. And this poor attorney who works for them got reprimanded and humiliated do to the advocator group not providing all my medical records. The people that should have been yelled at are those that collect this information. What I can't fathom is how this company "takes the stress away for the claimant" and why in the world would you not call your client BEFORE your hearing and say hey we are missing medical records. Honestly I'm furious I've waited 5 years for incompetence and it very well can cost me the determination I deserve. Luckily the judge was kind enough to extend my hearing 10 days so advocator group can provide information they should have had in 2012 there's no excuse. I have a bad feeling that their error is going to cost me my case. If choosing them to represent you bug the heck out of them till the day of your hearing make sure the t's are crossed and I's dotted. Obviously if a person is filing they have good reason why would you do a half ass job risk your clients benefits and not get paid?! The woman who actually represented me was wonderful but I felt horrible she was mortified she apologized to the judge and he told her to apologize to me it wasn't even her fault I had spoken to this woman less than 24 hrs before my hearing I was just a name in a long list of names of people she is representing trusting her coworkers do their job so she can do hers. So now I sit and wait 10 business days plus the time it takes to type out the determination letter and wait for it in the mail when I should have known same day. Very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

kiki - we should get in contact somehow. Your story is the same as mine; the missing records, the judge yelling at the lawyer but I'm a bit further along in trying to find a way to recover from the disaster left in by Advocator. My hearing was last year - I was denied at which point I had 60 days to file with the Appeals Council. Had I not called Advocator Group multiple times to find out if they were going to continue my case I would have missed the deadline since the letter telling me they were not going to continue arrived 21 days past the deadline. My advice to you is get prepared for the denial and start seeking local representation; get all of your medical records together, request the files and recording of the hearing. The exhibits in the hearing files will help you identify which medical records are missing. Don't trust Advocator to get them as I still have no verification the missing records were ever sent almost a year later. If getting your medical records is a financial burden most states have caps on what medical offices can charge and waivers for hardship if they are for SSD cases. If you are denied you'll be a step ahead (have your HA-520 form ready to go) with all your records, but also know it is extremely difficult to find representation once you are at the Appeals Council stage as not many lawyers want to jump in the middle unsure of what has transpired - contact your state or local legal aid services or law school if there is one close to you. It took the Appeals Council 60 days to get back to me with an approval to a request for extension so now I am faced with about 3 weeks to get a lawyer and get a response prepared to the Council as no lawyer would even look at it until they were sure the extension was approved. I rue the day I signed up with Advocator but what did I know, my LTD provider said it was a good thing and when you're sick people can take advantage right and you certainly don't feel like conducting a huge search for lawyers. I have nothing good to say about Advocator once they suspected they could make no money off of my case basically all communication ceased and it was pulling teeth to get even the hearing records. When it comes to social security representation the disabled are already sick, no money ergo powerless, perfect prey in a land of predators. I would have done just as well if not better on my own.