Tag Archives: DLA

12 Minutes …

For many of us going through the DLA to PIP process, it’s a devastating slide into everything we never wanted to face.

What can’t you do. And why?

After years of muddling through, re-adapting, making concessions for MS, we have to admit our endless ‘shortcomings’. Our failings.

We realise, sometimes with a huge thud, just what we can’t do. I plunged into a deep depression, because I actually thought I was doing ok, bar walking into walls and falling asleep at the slightest opportunity.

My forms took weeks to fill in. Painstaking. Personal, hideously personal. Numerous extra pages of ‘Cont. Info’ were included.

48 pages in all. Basically, my entire life in one document.

As a birthday present last week, a huge pile of tribunal papers arrived along with cards and flowers. Nice touch.

Buried in amongst over a hundred pages, I discovered that my form had a ‘considered/writing up time’ of 12 minutes.

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive. To read a compressed life with MS, all 48 pages, plus consider them and write a response in 12 minutes is speedy by anyone’s standard. Bearing in mind it’s not a new claim, but a transition from a lifetime award for DLA.

The result?

A face-to-face consideration was required. Which happened – apparently – although neither me nor my witness recognise the meeting she refers to. And this ‘health care professional’ appears to have the upper hand in my forthcoming tribunal.

Her ‘evidence’ is the ‘truth’. She was here, in my house, for 50 minutes in total. That includes losing her way (my mum directed her on the phone), coming in, setting up her laptop, talking to me (without looking at me), packing up and leaving.

It appears my entire tribunal rests upon her ‘clinical’ finding and ‘observations’.

I’m impressed.

To destroy someone’s life in 50 minutes is bad enough, but the lead-in took 12.

I am that insignificant. All my pain, my symptoms, my life being turned on its head. Not only that, the end of my planned future, being sacked from work, the endless relapses, the invasive treatments I’ve had. Not to mention their side-effects (hello, Fatty-Puff-Me).

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the person who knows me and my MS probably better than most, my wonderful MS nurse, cannot write a statement for the tribunal. Aside from the logistical nightmare that this would cause for the under-funded department, they have been ‘told’ by the DWP that their evidence is ‘meaningless’ and ‘patient-directed’ so therefore inadmissible.

So I face a tribunal based almost solely upon evidence of someone who does not know me, triggered by someone in an office who does not know me.

Ok.

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Trials and Tribunals

Hmm.

What do you think would happen if you missed a DWP deadline, with no explanation?

Yep, you’d be ‘struck off’ and told to apply again, if at all.

Since first being contacted for my transition from DLA to PIP in October last year, I have hit all deadlines bar one – I was extremely ill and needed a couple of extra weeks to complete the forms.

The DWP were swiftly informed and sent out re-adjusted timelines accordingly.

Since then, I have had a decision, had a home visit, had another decision, had a mandatory reconsideration and been turned down on the points I made.

So now it’s going to a tribunal. I duly sent off the forms and had a letter back from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service. The DWP had 28 days to send a response.

That date was 3rd August. Hearing nothing, I phoned the Tribunals Service for information. I discovered the DWP has ignored them and will be sent a letter to prompt them for a response. Anyone here ever had a gentle ‘prompt’ letter with no sanctions attached?

This letter will give them an extra 14 days to respond. If they still ignore my case, a judge will decide how best to proceed.

If the DWP had responded on time, a likely tribunal would be held at the end of November this year, a full 14 months after first starting this endless, pointless paper trail. 22 weeks is the standard waiting time from lodging an appeal to it being heard.

With their non-response, it’ll probably be Christmas Eve.

To be fair, the woman I spoke to at the Tribunals Service was amazing; my story is nothing she has not heard before. Day after day she takes similar phone-calls, digging down in to the whole ‘lifetime’ award scenario for incurable illness, such as MS.

As an unexpected aside, a wonderful regular reader of my blog met my MP at a local event last week and outlined my case to her, even giving her my blog address. Long story short, I have since contacted my MP’s office and hopefully they will be taking up my fight, alongside my fantastically patient supporters who helped me fill in all the forms.

I’ve just dug out a letter from Capita about my home assessment. Clearly stated, there is the line, ‘if you fail to attend without a good reason, the decision-maker at the DWP is likely to refuse your claim’.

One rule for them ..?

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Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

To appeal or not to appeal?

That is the question.

I am tired. Utterly exhausted.

I first got the DLA to PIP forms back in October last year. We’ll soon be in July, and my Mandatory Reconsideration request was turned down, as expected. Over 80% are.

We’re talking almost ten months, to complete one ‘award’. And I’ll be reviewed again in three years.

After their initial assessment, I have been awarded the daily living needs, standard rate. In turn, this allows me to access the disability rates of both Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

If I go to an appeal, there is every chance that could be reduced, and I would lose that access to the other benefits. And then I would be facing homelessness. Despite working.

It’s a gamble, and a huge one.

There’s two ways of thinking. The first, outlined above: take what I’ve been given, live with it and wait to be reassessed in three years, when no doubt my MS will be worse and at the very least I’ll have a ‘proper’ mental health diagnosis. Which annoys me as I’ve been proactive by seeing a counsellor for years, yet to the DWP, it is meaningless.

The second way is to apply for an appeal and hope that the panel will understand the intrinsic and very complicated nature of MS.

The new 20 metre rule makes matters even more difficult. It used to be 50 metres and it’s a cause being championed by the MS Society right now.

I would invite anyone from the DWP to my house from around 2pm onwards, to witness my struggles. The evenings I don’t cook. The evenings I spend lying on the sofa. The evenings when the nerve pain is beyond comprehension, despite being on 600mg of nerve pain medication a day, the highest sanctioned for MS. Where to go from here?

For me, the sticking point is the lies. Fair play, if the assessor saw me on a ‘good day’, I could understand her comments, which have been faithfully regurgitated by the person looking in to my Mandatory Reconsideration (who hasn’t met me). She didn’t.

It galls, a government department, coming in to my house, sitting with me and a witness, then writing absolute lies – in fact, it is seriously messing with my mind. I was there. I know what happened.

So here I am, not knowing quite which way to go. Stay safe, yet insulted. Or fighting my corner, with every chance I could lose my house of the last 14 years.

I work. I’ve raised a teenager on my own since he was a baby and now he is in University. And I’m dealing with MS. I’ve not given up.

I think they actually want me to.

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Bordering on The Ridiculous

So, I have my reply from the DWP, tucked into one of their notorious dung-brown envelopes.

I applied for a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’, after their initial decision to massively decrease my lifetime Disability Living Allowance.

In a nutshell, according to them, I am a liar.

They even (and this kills me more than anything), use the word, ‘perceive’, as in, ‘You said you can’t do such and such, due to perceived pain and poor balance … yet …’

First off, I would love to know how perceived pain and poor balance feels (as opposed to the very real pain I feel, and have medication for), and secondly, how exactly is MS pain measured? Or indeed, balance?

Secondly, the decision of this mandatory assessor appears to be weighted heavily in favour of the so-called assessor who came to see me face to face in my house, and then proceeded to ignore me (but it’s ok, she was an A&E nurse and knows loads about MS).

It’s fascinating, how much she derived about living with MS, considering she was looking at her computer and checking her watch the whole time (she told us we were the ‘last of five or so and she was tired’).

What I experience is very real. No-one is on 600mg of Pregabalin a day (the limit) for nerve pain, if they don’t have nerve pain. And at my last three appointments with my neurologist, I have mentioned it doesn’t even touch the sides.

And as for balance? I have very well-documented balance issues, hence the name of my blog, which was created seven whole years ago, ‘Stumbling In Flats.’ The clue is in the name.

One of my first symptoms even before being diagnosed? Balance. Foot drop. Walking funny.

A large part of their letter concerned my work: I’m engaged, I walk, I converse. Yes, I do. But not always. There is a reason I work for my friend. There is a reason I was sacked from my last job.

It’s called Disability Discrimination and is heavily legislated, but it won’t stop firms, such as my previous employer, from sacking me the minute I had MS symptoms.

It would appear the DWP would prefer me to disengage entirely from society, merely to prove a point.

But which point/indicator on their scale would this qualify for?

NUL – Are You Dead Yet?

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No, You’re Not

Moving from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) was always going to be difficult, given the current climate.

Like most of us with MS, I had a lifetime DLA award.

Because, in simple terms, – MS  is a lifetime, incurable, degenerative illness – and one which we would probably all willingly give up, should a cure be found?

After filling in an interminably distressing form – which took weeks – and and after enduring a ghastly face-to-face meeting with someone who would later blatantly lie about me in her report, I submitted a mandatory reconsideration.

The odds are heavily stacked at this stage – over 80% fail.

I did.

However, should you go to appeal, the odds are in our favour; 67% of awards are overturned in favour of the defendant.

So, basically, get ready for a court case. A court case! To prove you have MS.

As if we don’t feel battered enough?

The form itself was a kind of reverse-therapy; focus upon every single tiny thing you now cannot do that you perhaps once did. In the process, write numerous essays highlighting these points in excruciating detail. Nothing is off limits.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was traumatised and utterly broken after filling in the form.

And then there was the rejection, and the reasons for them. Every single point seemed to be refuted as I seemed healthy and happy, dressed appropriately for the climate (I kid you not) and was able to put my fingers through my hair. Oh, and I laughed (with my witness, my mum, nervously).

Stunned.

I sent in a mandatory reconsideration, and now I have found out my claim stays the same, so my only recourse is an appeal. Which could take well over a year. And I’m to be ‘reviewed’ every three years.

It’s a legal nightmare.

What should I do?

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