Thursday, 28 June 2018

my PIP story pt.2

I hope these posts will be encouraging for anyone going through the PIP application process. I am NOT an expert.

Read Part One here 
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5. Preparing for an assessment


This article is a pretty chilling depiction of the faceless bureaucracy of a PIP assessment: https://www.benefitadvice.org/pip-medical-assessment.html - particularly the Computer Says "No" section at the bottom of the page.

FULL DISCLOSURE
I honestly don't know what you can do to prepare for an assessment. I was lucky that both of mine were in my home. But for my second assessment - when I'd included details of adaptations that had been fitted around the house - they didn't even look around.

Although it couldn't have been used in a tribunal, I'm glad we made an audio recording of the assessment. At the very least I could play it back to ensure that I hadn't misremembered what we actually did say when we were able to go through the tribunal papers - which included their notes from the assessments.

But even so, the things that we said were twisted, misrepresented, or flat-out ignored.

Maybe I was unlucky. But all signs would imply that this is par for the course.

6. Take it to the bridge… I mean, the tribunal


my ACTUAL tribunal papers
After an application, an assessment, and an unsuccessful Mandatory Reconsideration, now was the time to request a tribunal.

At this point the case was passed onto HM Courts & Tribunal Service. Shortly afterwards I received a huge wodge of papers - forms, assessment reports, and decision notices for BOTH of my applications. 185 pages in total.

Although they were two separate things, I think they did this to show the tribunal service that, "This person has applied and been assessed twice. In our opinion they are clearly taking the piss."

At the front of the pack there is an official response to the appeal from the DWP:
I've considered all the available evidence and considered which descriptors apply for each activity, taking into account Mr. Woodward's functional ability. This includes the activities Mr. Woodward has disputed and those which he hasn't. I agree with all descriptors included.

I oppose this appeal and ask the Tribunal to dismiss the appeal and confirm the Secretary of State's decision.
Now. This scared the bejeezus out of me when I read it.

But think about it - they can't very well receive the tribunal request, look over the application notes, then turn around and say, "Blimey, we got it wrong here. Sorry!"

So this is a standard bit of verbiage. Stay strong.

Obviously I never got to a tribunal [SPOILER ALERT] but it really was like an intense game of chicken - who was going to blink first?

7. Evidence, evidence, evidence

This is what turned it around for me when we were waiting for a tribunal date.

I saw my MS Nurse, showed her the DWP's refusal letters and we went through them point by point. She also did some physical tests. This whole appointment took about an hour.

She then went away and wrote a letter in support which included irrefutable evidence based on her knowledge of my condition over the years.

The whole report was less than a single side of A4.

And in the phone call to let me know that their decision had been reversed, the person I spoke to said that this bit of evidence was what turned it round.

So save yourself a lot of bother - if you're applying now, include a notes from one of your listed medical professionals, as long as it backs up the things you have said elsewhere.

Another reason to include this kind of thing in your application is because NOT ONE of the medical professionals I listed - three for the first application, seven for the second - were contacted.

Perhaps I should have allowed enough time to gather this kind of evidence before I applied - but then, you're only given a month to return your application and there are enough things to stress about.

Conclusions

Like I said at the top of the first article, I am no expert in this sort of thing. But at the very least my experience shows that a decision can be reversed.

It takes a lot of stress and anxiety, and it might very well lead you to want to just give up.

But I can't help but feel that this might be exactly what the DWP is counting on. Call me cynical.

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Just for reference, these are the scores I achieved through my application process, and how they changed.

Application 1: 
0 points for Daily Living
4 points for Mobility
Unchanged after Mandatory Reconsideration

Application 2:
6 points for Daily Living
4 points for Mobility
Unchanged after Mandatory Reconsideration

Final decision (after supporting evidence from my MS Nurse - remember, this was A SINGLE SIDE OF A4):
9 points for Daily Living
12 points for Mobility

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