Friday 22nd November was the day I finally got the opportunity to defend my rights to receive PIP at my PIP tribunal.
If you check out this post you can read about what happened when I attended my assessment.
I was pleased to see there was both step and ramp access available, however, if I had been on my own I would have struggled with entry as the door though opening inwards was very narrow, thankfully a friend who I previously worked with was just entering the building so he opened the other door for me.
We entered the lift and exited on the floor for the tribunal and after pressing a buzzer a security guard opened the doors for us to enter.
After signing in and being searched we were taken to a waiting area and the tribunal clerk came in to explain the process of the tribunal.
In the meantime, Steph my friend and I used this opportunity to have a quick recap on any of the questions I was going to ask.
After about 10 minutes the clerk entered the room saying the judge was ready for me now and she guided us both into the tribunal room.
Once I had wheeled myself into the space at the desk, Steph took the seat next to me.
The tribunal panel consisted of, the judge, a doctor and member of the disabled council. It is worth noting there was no attendance from the DWP.
You may recall me likening my assessment to an interview, well this felt like I was now at the panel stage with the three of them in front of me.
After the judge introduced himself he then explained the process that would follow, asking me if I had brought my tribual papers with me to which I replied yes.Make sure you take your tribunal papers with you because it they will be referred to by page number as the questions are asked. Click To Tweet
The tribunal then commenced with the first question asking me to confirm I was just discussing the mobility element, in all honesty, I was then given the opportunity to challenge the care element, however as I rushed my MR because I believed I should have been awarded enhanced mobility I failed to question the care element.
Just to note if you are at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage don’t let them talk you into submitting it over the phone, you need to respond to every statement made by the assessor.
The judge then passed the questioning to the doctor who based on my PIP application queried a number statements made by the assessor, I very quickly realised the Doctor knew all about MS and therefore from the start understood my issues and asked me relevant questions.
He paid particular attention to my musculoskeletal examination that was carried out on the day and the fact the assessor had reported I had normal power to both upper and lower limbs and flexions for knees and hip were good, the assessor also reported I didn’t bend down to touch my toes but failed to say this was because I was dizzy.
Interesting to note the new directives from September 2019 say the HP (Health Professional) must not lift the claimant’s limbs.
The doctor then asked if the assessor had looked at my feet as I had reported a foot drop on my application. I replied no she hadn’t.
His response was he knew musculoskeletal examination didn’t prove or disprove neurological issues and as I reported foot drop he informed me the assessor should have looked at my foot and reported against my statement.These are two glaring issues that affect my mobility, so why wasn’t I asked about either of these. Click To Tweet
Dizziness then came up as he asked if I was dizzy when I stood up from the examination as the assessor stated I showed no signs, I must admit I made a mock fainting sign at this and said it’s part of my daily life and I don’t tell people I am dizzy when I stand up because I just am.
The Doctor then asked for a bit of background on me on how I had been diagnosed with MS, and what I used to do for work etc., I have to say he seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying.
Then the distance questions started because I was claiming to be unable to walk up to 20m reliably. safely and repeatedly which both the assessor and the case manager stated they believed I could.
As expected there were a lot of questions on this part of the appeal, but I was prepared and pointed out it’s not how far I can walk it’s how I am when I first stand up to walk that is the issue.
My right leg is the leg I use to stand up because when I use the left one it invariably gives way on me, so I have to get my balance. Once I am up I use anything to balance me along with way, doors, grab rails, walls etc.,
The main issue is I never know how it is going to affect me to walk because of my left-sided weakness, I don’t know when my leg might give way, I don’t know if I am going to lose my balance, but the main thing is if I am fatigued my left leg just goes dead altogether, meaning I can’t walk at all.
I was then asked a few examples of times when I have had to walk and roughly how far I would have walked without stopping, this is also when he brought up the question I was asked at assessment whilst sat in a wheelchair when the assessor observed I self-propelled my chair from the car park to her room with no issues.No issues my arse, I got dropped off right in the doorway and stopped 5-6 times propelling myself to the room which is about 75m from the entrance. Click To Tweet
As for her final question of if I had had to walk from Reception to the room how many times would I have stopped and when I said I didn’t know she told me I had to tell her as she had to put it on the form so I just guessed.
The Doctor seemed dismayed by this and asked me if I had any idea how many times I would have stopped and I replied honestly because at the end of the day that’s all I can be, I don’t know because I don’t, it would depend on how many times my leg gave way, it would depend on my fatigue levels which can take me into a near syncope in which case I would have had to take myself to the floor, he understood this and said he had all the information he needed.
The judge, the doctor and the disability lady all had a discussion and then the judge asked me if I had any issues getting places to which I replied I sometimes need a sat nav because I forget where I am going but other than that no.
At this point, the judge turned to Steph and asked if there was anything she would like to add and that’s when she burst into tears, bless her explaining how hard it was to see me like this to what I used to be like.
He then turned to me said he had all the information he needed and asked us to return to the waiting area and he would call us back in when they had come to a decision.
Steph and I had only been back in the waiting area for a few minutes and I was just saying to her I don’t think I am going to get this when the judge walked in and said he didn’t want me to have to go back in so came to me.
First, he spoke off the record and informed me I could put in a change of circumstances at any time if I wanted to apply for enhanced care, which I thought was strange, then he said I am pleased to tell you we have approved your appeal and extended the award time by two years.
I did at this point offer to kiss him, which is very inappropriate I know, but he took it good spirit and wished me well as he left the room.
What I have found from this whole agonising process is be honest in your application, and at your assessment, because the assessor will lead you to answer the questions they want you to answer, don’t be lead!Ask the questions that are relevant to you, the issues you are experiencing and how your illness affects you. Click To Tweet
Political though it may sound they are targeted like any other government organisation and for that reason they know what to ask to get you knocked back, isn’t it a sad state of affairs really!
I know from the response I had to the original post that these posts help others, please share with anyone you know who is going through this process, or is about to. We have to keep fighting for what is rightfully ours.
All I want at the end of the day is to be able to live my life the same as anyone else and the car with a hoist will help me so much and stop me having to rely on others to get out and about.Do you know how humiliating it is to ask random strangers to lift my wheelchair in and out of my car when I am on my own? Click To Tweet
I look forward to your reading your thoughts and or experiences in the comments.