Tag Archives: PIP

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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The More You Tell Us We Can’t, The More We Just Might

I don’t know how you guys are doing, but life under our present government is an anxiety-inducing experience of hell for me.

A weird, subversive world where right is wrong and wrong is worse, way worse than you could ever imagine.

And a world where MS is magically reversible because a former A&E nurse says so, after ‘observing’ you for half an hour.

MS. The illness they can’t even find a test for, far less a cure.

Cast your mind back to the last General Election – all those earnest politicians vying for your vote; the couple, the couple with 2.5 kids, the retired couple, the middle-aged couple. Where were you?

Did you once hear our leaders address the 1 in 5 of us who are disabled? I’m a media junkie and I didn’t hear a thing.

I heard about tax relief (I don’t earn enough), inheritance tax (I don’t have enough), and tax in general (I live at sub-poverty level). I heard about ‘hard-working’ families. About ‘hard-done-by-pensioners’.  Disabled people? Nope.

In fact, I was so annoyed, I responded to a BBC Wales tweet and ended up being interviewed, my absolute pet-hate, but the point had to be made. Not that it made much difference.

Our government was simply not listening to people with disabilities, Let’s be honest, few of us will get through life without some form of ‘disability’, so why be so shy about it?

Truth be told, we are simply not media-worthy, and the whole transition taking place from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments is just another modern tragedy taking place in every single street up and down the country, but is under-reported on a terrible scale.

Want to know a secret?

Should you live long enough (and many, many illnesses are non-age-specific), you too will be disabled! Yep.

I am absolutely fed up with being ignored by politicians unless we are a good excuse for a photo-op. Some of us are in wheelchairs, some of us are not. Weirdly – we are all different.

Is it fair we have to fight just to get a taxi? Just to keep our job?

In my view, there has to be a backlash soon.

And it cannot come soon enough.

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A Date With Fate

People often say, if you think too hard about the best time to have a child, you never will.

It’s the same with car crashes and disabilities.

If you’d asked my 23-year-old self if I had the time and resilience to be involved in a near-fatal car accident, necessitating six months off work, I’d have laughed. But it happened.

Forward 14 years and if you’d asked me on Friday 24th June 2011 whether – as a divorced mother of an 11 year old – I was ready for a serious, degenerative illness to suddenly pop up and change my life forever, I’d have laughed my head off. I had far too much to do, how could I possibly fit it in?

Yet it happened – I went to bed that evening as usual and woke up in a completely different body, one I barely recognised.

The surprise element in these three scenarios can be overwhelming for people like me, who think they knew where they’re going.

Just like that, you don’t.

I often think back to that fateful evening and wonder if I truly appreciated my life, as it was, when I closed my book, fluffed up my pillow and turned out the light. I don’t think I did.

Sure, I had a plan, and it was a good one – possibilities were opening up as The Teenager entered high school and the tethers of childcare were loosening. I would also lose that extra weight, learn how to apply eyeliner and rustle up a mean Martini.

MS hit and I went under. For two years. It was almost as if I refused to believe that it had actually happened. I was grieving for what could have been and what should have been. It was all so … unfair.

It’s only now I realise that it wasn’t so much the MS that rocked my life (**** happens?), but my inability to recognise that life had changed and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. A bit like the car crash.

Almost seven years on from that day, I am serene, calm and accepting.

Nah, not really.

But – I’m much more flexible in my approach to life, unlike my body, which is often rigid, wracked with weird vibrations and does the strangest things.

So many awful things have happened since MS but none now have the power to shock me quite as much. When life events drop down the shock-scale, it’s rather nice. When MS happens, what can be worse?

Oh, wait, I forgot about The Department of Work and Pensions …

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