Tag Archives: PIP

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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Ta Da! Unveiling The Five-Year-Plan …

You know me, I love a challenge.

Over the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve considered learning the saxaphone, finding out how to cook rice properly and going to one of those women who hold coloured swatches up to your face and then let you know if you should wear ‘Summer’ or ‘Autumn’ shades.

None of which has happened, unsurprisingly.

So now The Teenager is making his own way in the world at University (apart from when he’s not, aka the three-month-summer-break-at-mum’s), I’ve got a few pockets of time on my hands. And what better way to fill them than with a PhD. Yup, I’m going for it, even though I’m also gearing up for a PIP tribunal, which is definitely the more terrifying prospect.

It’s quite probably the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever had, apart from deciding all by myself that I’m a ‘Winter’ shade, which makes me look like an eerie Celtic ghoul.

I’ve taken the first tentative steps, sending in a proposal. I found out there are now Postgraduate Loans, for the first time. Karma? When I blogged about it before, you guys were beyond encouraging and that in itself gives me courage.

I would take it over five years, part-time, as I still need to work. It could end in failure, and maybe I’ll walk away with an MPhil after a couple of years, but it’s still an achievement.

And therein lies the nub; I have a great job but no career – I can’t work my way up as the only person above me is Grumpy Boss. I’ve resigned myself to living out my days without a significant other, besides the cat (and I’m half-way to 90 in August, gah).

It’s not about feeling sorry for myself; I’m actually getting quite excited now, the more I look over my proposal (which includes writing a novel with MS firmly at its centre). I just need a focus, another routine besides work and lying on the sofa. Pinballing between the two is bringing me down.

I’m not the most accomplished academic writer in the world, but I’m a trier. The best thing about writing, as opposed to speaking (garbled, often), is that I can delete, delete, delete. Giving myself five years to write a novel means I can factor in the inevitable relapses, the brain fog and the days when I just can’t move.

So now I’m daydreaming a lot in work, during these long hot days when I tuck myself into the nearest shadow and lurk until I cool down. I see myself, pen in hand, fresh notebook page in front of me, jotting down Very Important Points.

If I ever went out in normal society (work doesn’t count, believe me), I would wear a beret and lots of beads. And green reading glasses.

I would look v. v. intelligent, but if anyone looked a bit closer, they’d probably see I was only googling ‘how to cook rice’.

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Appealing for sanity?

Well.

I have now, at the last minute, submitted my appeal to Her Majesty’s Courts.

Stuff just got serious.

I got turned down at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, due in large part to some person coming to my house and writing fiction/ticking off a list about me.

There were lies and then there were the downright lies. It’s one thing to assess my MS in less than 40 minutes (which is bizarre and actually completely impossible), it was another thing to doubt my witness.

So we are both wrong. And probably lying. As it happens, I am going through a particularly difficult MS flare up – not new, happens every couple of months or so (as reported).

Redial back, and after my Mandatory Reconsideration notice, I was willing (if I had the energy) to throw in the towel.

They didn’t believe me.

I had Alemtuzumab treatment, the strongest licensed treatment, at present, for MS. Three times, when we usually have two and that’s enough.

Each course costs at least £30,000.

I have a rapidly-evolving type of MS, hence the aggressive and brutal treatment. Basically, it removes your immune system. Easy?

Not really. Not at all.

And now, in amongst a further MRI to assess my MS, I am awaiting my day in court. And there was me thinking MS was brutal.

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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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