Changes to disability benefits cost £4bn in extra welfare payments

Be it PIP, Universal Credit, ESA it has cost more to implement than the status quo, but then we all know the welfare “reforms” were never about saving money:
The central objective has not been, as is generally claimed, to save money but rather to ensure a level of desperation that drives people into low wage precarious work and depresses the level of real wages. source

Changes to disability benefits cost £4bn in extra welfare payments, OBR’s figures will bolster disability groups’ calls for overhaul of PIP system

Person in wheelchair
 The OBR said the growing number of appeals from disabled people was one of several causes of the unexpected rise in costs.

Changes to the disability benefits system that has caused huge hardship to some of the country’s most vulnerable people has cost the government more than £4bn more in extra welfare payments than ministers estimated.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Treasury’s independent forecasting unit, said predictions by the Department for Work and Pensions dramatically under-estimated the costs of rolling out the personal independent payments (PIP) system, which began to replace disability living allowance (DLA) in 2013.

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A saving of £2bn was expected by 2018, but that has since been revised to an over-spend by £1.5bn to £2bn, leaving an estimated £4.2bn gap in the public finances. The figures are expected to bolster calls by disability groups for an overhaul of the PIP system, which has been described as a “vicious attack” on disabled people. MPs on the work and pensions select committee concluded an investigation last year that found the assessments of claimants by private sector contractors to be “shoddy and error strewn”, leading to hundreds of thousands of successful appeals.

One charity, Parkinson’s UK, complained that about a quarter of people living with the disease in Britain had lost some or all of their support after benefit reassessments, only to have the payments reinstated on appeal.

The OBR said the growing number of appeals was one of several causes of the unexpected rise in costs. It said the system had also come under pressure from legal challenges, which had altered the scope of the scheme, and an increase in claimants, especially of working age adults when this group was due to see a large fall.

The OBR said: “The government assumed initially that PIP would be rolled out by 2015-16 and that it would cost 20% less than DLA would have done. In fact, by 2017-18 it was costing around 15 to 20% more, with rollout only around two-thirds complete.”

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Ministers claimed, when the system was launched, that a programme of rolling medical assessments by three private sector contractors would ensure payments were only made for as long as a claimant needed them.

Critical of the system run by public sector staff, the DWP expected that independent medical reassessments would lead to a dramatic fall in the number of people staying on benefits.

A report in 2016 by the OBR described the PIP system as “a failure” after it reduced the forecasts of cost savings to 5%. In its latest report it said the inability to achieve savings, which were now nearer -20%, had pushed its forecasting of the welfare budget significantly off track.

 

Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “DWP told us PIP would save taxpayers money and introduce a fair, transparent assessment process. Today’s report lays bare that it has achieved neither. PIP will cost a fifth more than the system it replaces: a sorry situation largely thanks to DWP’s failure to cost the reform accurately before bringing it in.

“Far worse, though, is that the PIP assessments are riddled with repeated and serious errors and have caused untold anxiety and misery for far too many of the people who rely on the benefit to live. The cost of those mistakes is also knocked forward into the tribunal system, not back to the contractors who made them.”

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The decimation of the welfare state

It’s sickening that the British welfare state is being gradually demolished by successive governments, to be eventually replaced with private healthcare insurance [1] and what’s even more galling is: they [some members of the UK govt] went to the USA to find out how to decimate our welfare state and NHS, encouraged by American corporate funders. Mo Stewart has written extensively about this in her book Cash not Care.

Amber Rudd has the absolute nerve to say Universal Credit has not always been compassionate whilst her dept have overseen the demolition of the welfare state causing misery not seen seen Victorian times [2] and I have added hundreds of  DWP atrocities like the one of Alan Chrisman [below] which have contributed to many suicides [3] 

Since 2010


Denied: How some Tennessee doctors earn big money denying disability claims

Alan Chrisman holds medical bills and records near the McDonald’s where he worked at as a maintenance employee before being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer

By the time Alan Chrisman was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer, he was too sick to work. The cancer had spread to his lungs. His doctors said he may never get better. He applied for disability, the federal safety net program he contributed to with every paycheck during his 30 years working as a stonemason.

But a doctor hired by Tennessee’s Disability Determination Services to review applications quickly concluded Chrisman wasn’t sick enough to get the $804 monthly benefit.

That physician, Dr. Thomas Thrush, is one of about 50 doctors contracted to review applications for Tennesseans seeking disability. The doctors are paid a flat rate for each application file they review. How much they earn depends on how fast they work.

Thrush, like many of the doctors who contract with the state, works very fast. In fiscal year 2018, he reviewed — on average — one case every 12 minutes.

Thrush’s productivity has paid off. He earned $420,000 for reviewing the applications of 9,088 Tennesseans applying for disability during the year ending June 30. He has made more than $2.2 million since 2013. On average, 80 percent of the cases he reviewed were denied.

6 takeaways from this investigation: Doctors speed through disability claims, make millions

Tennessee has among the highest denial rates for disability applicants in the nation, rejecting 72 percent of all claims in 2017. The national average for denials was 66 percent. Outside experts and former and current state employees say it’s impossible to review cases so quickly without making mistakes that lead to wrongful rejections of disability benefits.

In Chrisman’s case, Thrush failed to obtain one critical piece of evidence: a discharge paper from a hospital that stated Chrisman’s cancer was inoperable and had metastasized. The prognosis clearly qualified him for disability, even under the complex rules set by the Social Security Administration. The mistake was discovered only after Chrisman hired a lawyer.

A USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee investigation examined 5½ years of data for physicians and psychologists who review disability applications. The investigation found that between January 2013 and July 2018:

• Some doctors raced through cases. More than half of all contract physicians outpaced the federal standard of 1.5 cases per hour, and 1 out of every 5 doctors doubled that pace.

 A whistleblower was fired. The contract of a former medical consultant was terminated in 2017 after he raised concerns about some physicians reviewing a high volume of cases.

• Speed pays. Seven high-volume doctors billed for more than $1 million each between fiscal 2013 and 2018. These physicians’ annual payments range from $103,000 to $451,000. By contrast, the acting chief of the Social Security Administration, a Cabinet-level position, earned $240,000. For some physicians, this was not their sole source of income.

 Staff doctors take more time. The state employed a small number of staff doctors whose compensation is not tied to the number of cases they review. These doctors reviewed cases at a rate that is in line with federal recommendations. They typically earned less than $150,000 annually, according to the state’s salary database. Beginning this year, however, the state is terminating all doctors on salary and relying only on contract physicians.

 Some doctors have a history of misconduct. At least two doctors under contract with the state are felons, including Thrush. Two other physicians had their medical licenses placed on probation. Another physician had his license revoked twice in the past 20 years and now works on a restricted license that bars him from treating patients.

Five current and former contractors and state employees said they believe disability applicants are being wrongfully denied in an effort to process as many applications as possible. Most spoke to The Tennessean on the condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal.

“It’s like a cash register,” said one contract physician. “From our perspective it’s unethical. From a consumer’s point of view it can be a tragedy.”

One doctor who raised the issue through official channels lost his contract. Dr. John Mather, the whistleblower, was the former chief medical officer for disability programs at the federal Social Security Administration, and worked as a contract doctor for the state after he retired.

“Who knows how many applicants for disability benefits have had their applications denied without justification,” he said.

A whistleblower

Mather said he warned James Stanfield, director for the state disability department, and Raquel Hatter, then commissioner of the Department of Human Services, in 2016 about the dangers of some doctors performing large numbers of reviews. The Human Services Department’s general counsel responded in a letter saying there was nothing illegal or fraudulent.

Mather emailed the Social Security Administration, which referred the matter to the Office of Inspector General. That office determined no investigation was warranted. Mather met with auditors at the Comptroller of the Treasury, then received no further response.

In 2017, Stanfield declined to renew Mather’s contract. “I don’t think they care about the claimant,” Mather said of administrators. “They just want to see the cases out. I don’t think they care too much about quality. People who are high producers — they are very happy to have them around.”

Current and former personnel said they were speaking up now because they want an outside investigator to review all cases to ensure individuals have not been wrongly denied.

“These findings are troubling,” Tennessee U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said in a statement. “Physicians, especially those dealing with state and federal funds, should be careful and thorough in their work. Social Security Disability Insurance is a vital program, and we have to keep it strong.”

Alan Chrisman walks with his wife, Joyce, near the Sevierville, Tenn., McDonald’s where he worked as a maintenance employee before being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. Chrisman applied for disability but was initally denied by a medical contractor hired by the state to review claims.

A spokesman for the Department of Human Services, which oversees the disability program in Tennessee, disputed any connection between how fast doctors review case files and their mistakes. “We have no reason to believe that doctors that average faster reviews are more prone to have errors in their reviews,” Sky Arnold said in a statement.

The Social Security Administration provided its own statistics that showed Tennessee doctors were spending on average 47 “medical minutes per case.” Patti Patterson, a spokeswoman, noted that was more than the national average of 38 minutes.

But the federal data adds the time multiple physicians spend reviewing the same case, a common occurrence when someone is claiming both a mental and physical disability requiring two different specialists. The state data analyzed by The Tennessean details each doctor’s speed.

A letter brings crushing news

For weeks, Chrisman did not feel well. Some days he would lose control of his bowels. After stonemason work became scarce, he got a job as a maintenance man at a McDonald’s in Sevierville, Tennessee, two years ago. One day in November 2017, he showed up to work at the restaurant and promptly soiled himself.

At the insistence of his wife, Joyce, he headed straight to a walk-in clinic. It was his first medical visit in a long time. The Chrismans cannot afford insurance. He was referred to a doctor, then another. The diagnosis was swift.

Chrisman had late-stage cancer of the intestine. The cancer had spread. There were two spots on his lung. A golf ball-sized tumor and about a foot of his intestine were removed in surgery.

Alan Chrisman worked as a maintenance employee at this Sevierville, Tenn., McDonald’s before being diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in November 2017. He’s now on his 11th dose of chemotherapy. After his 12th next month, he will return for a scan.
Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel

Weakened by chemotherapy and radiation, emaciated after shedding 40 pounds, and in extreme discomfort with tubes protruding from his backside, Chrisman occasionally can’t sit or stand. On a good day he can walk outside to pick up a single log for the fireplace in the couple’s unheated two-bedroom cabin.

The Chrismans earned about $32,000 a year between his earnings and his wife’s $10 hourly wage cleaning laundry at a Smoky Mountain resort. The mounting medical bills and Chrisman’s lost wages devastated his wife, who tried to arrange payment plans with medical providers. Chrisman applied for disability in November 2017. The rejection letter came six months later.

“Although your therapy is currently causing you discomfort, it is expected these effects will be temporary,” said the denial letter, based on the recommendation from Thrush.

Joyce Chrisman cried when she read the letter.

Mistakes unlikely to be caught

The disability process has two layers of oversight designed to catch errors, but doctors know there is little likelihood anyone would catch a mistake in denying someone’s application.

First, a quality assurance department in Nashville spot-checks approvals and denials to make sure staff and doctors have followed procedures. Then, federal regional offices review a portion of disability applications.

Tennessee has consistently ranked high in the quality of its case reviews, averaging a 95.8 percent quality rating since 2016, said Arnold, the state spokesman. In 2017 DDS earned a Social Security Administration “Phoenix Award” for its performance.

But the state and federal offices review a tiny percentage of denied disability claims for accuracy.

By law, half of all approvals by state DDS personnel are reviewed by Social Security Administration staff — a provision meant to safeguard public funds.

The law, however, doesn’t set specific requirements for denials. As a result, the Social Security Administration reviewed fewer than 2 percent of all rejections, according to an analysis by the National Association of Social Security Claims Representatives.

“If the adjudicator is making poor decisions, if they tend towards denials, they’re just not going to be reviewed,” said Jen Burdick, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. She is is among advocates nationwide asking for Social Security to review more denials.

Wrongful denials may be appealed, but long delays for a hearing can take a devastating  toll in lost wages, lack of access to health care and medical bills. In fiscal year 2017, at least 9,570 people died waiting for their disability appeals to be heard.

Speed pays — sometimes millions

The Social Security Administration oversees two disability programs: Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, for low-income individuals without a work history, and Social Security Disability Insurance for workers who become disabled.

The federal government delegates to the states the administration of the programs. Tennessee received $8.5 million last year from the Social Security Administration to hire medical consultants with a variety of specialties to review medical records.

These doctors never examine claimants in person, although they occasionally order a physical exam by another doctor.

Seven days a week, setting their own schedules, the doctors swipe their badges to access secured floors of a brown and glass office building on the outskirts of downtown Nashville, logging into a computer system that generates a queue of cases to review.

Some applications contain just a few pages. Others include hundreds of pages of doctor’s notes, hospital reports, X-rays, lab results and employment records. Doctors must write a brief report to justify their findings, too.

The decision to grant or deny benefits is officially made by a state employee, but doctors who work for the state say it is their recommendation that carries the most weight.

For this work, the doctors are paid a flat fee ranging from $30 to $47 per case. Doctors also bill $68 per hour in most instances for the time they spend consulting with staff or mentoring other physicians. Use the database below to search for physicians. Like Thrush, some of these doctors work very fast.

Dr. Kanika Chaudhuri, a pediatrician, evaluated 3,872 cases last fiscal year, averaging more than four cases per hour when she worked. She earned $192,000 in fiscal 2018 and $1.1 million since 2013.

Out of all the cases Chaudhuri reviewed over the five years, 78 percent were denied, according to data provided by the state. State officials later noted that the denial data included cases in which multiple doctors made assessments, meaning Chaudhuri and other doctors may not have made the final assessment.

Asked whether she felt pressured to review cases too quickly, Chaudhuri said: “No direct pressure. They recommend that we must keep up. They always recommend you do your best. There are so many applications and so few doctors. We are overwhelmed with cases.”

Jenaan Khaleeli, a psychologist, has averaged 4½ cases an hour since 2013. Nearly 80 percent of those cases were denied. Over the five years, Khaleeli earned $1.2 million, including $209,000 in fiscal 2018.

Dr. Frank Pennington, an ear, nose and throat specialist who is also a felon, earned $144,000 reviewing cases in fiscal 2018, and more than $1 million since 2013. During the five-year period he reviewed 20,835 cases, at a rate of three per hour.

Pennington is one of five contract physicians with a history of misconduct. Pennington is confined to the administrative practice of medicine after three separate felony cocaine convictions and two stints in federal prison in the 1990s.

Thrush had his license placed on probation for four years in 2008 after he  pleaded guilty to prescription fraud in 2006. Arnold, the DHS spokesman, said the physicians were all doctors in good standing while employed.

“It’s important to remember these are not forward-facing doctors,” Arnold said. “Their role is to examine medical records and reports. They do not meet with patients in person.” Thrush, Pennington and Khaleeli did not respond to messages.

‘A flawed system’

Tennessee’s pay-by-the-case model — and the sums paid to contract doctors — surprised even advocates and attorneys who routinely assist people with disabilities. “There is an obvious financial incentive under such a payment arrangement — to process cases as quickly as possible,” said Russ Overby, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee, who represents individuals seeking disability.

“I am concerned that some clients who are in fact eligible for disability benefits will be denied because there has not been a sufficient review of the case.” Carrie Hobbs Guiden, executive director of The Arc of Tennessee, advocates for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities who occasionally apply for Social Security disability benefits. Doctors have to invest the time to properly review cases, she said, especially when it involves people with untreated mental health issues.

“If they’re getting paid based on how many they get done, that’s a flawed system,” Guiden said. “That’s not encouraging quality. You have to question if the purpose is to deny as many people as possible.”

Under pressure to meet ‘workload goals’

State disability determination departments face enormous pressures to meet “workload goals” set by the Social Security Administration.

In 2018, the Social Security Administration set a goal of 103,161 disability applications to be cleared by Tennessee’s office.

The staff and consultants needed to clear those cases in Tennessee have shrunk by 24 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Failure to meet goals can result in a financial penalty from the federal government, according to Jeffrey Price, the past legislative director for the National Association of Disability Examiners.

Doctors elsewhere push back

About half of all state disability offices in the United States operate on a similar model to Tennessee’s, in which physicians reviewing applications are paid by the case, according to Price.

The contract model, in which doctors receive a fee for each assessment, introduces some risks, Price said.

“If you were paid by the case, it behooves you to sign off on as many cases as you can,” he said. “I think that model at least has the potential for increased error rates.

“A doctor can review cases effectively at about two cases per hour,” Price said. “You’re hoping that the doctor will actually look at the whole case, not just what the examiner wrote.”

Doctors like Thrush, who processed more than five cases per hour, might be valued in an office trying to shovel itself out of a large caseload, Price said, but the pace is implausible.

“I think that would be dangerous, actually,” Price said. “Inherently you would be missing something if you’re looking at five cases an hour.”

At the North Carolina Disability Determination Services office, where Price has worked for nearly 40 years, managers recently asked doctors to process an average of three cases per hour instead of two. Doctors in that office are all on staff, as opposed to contractors.

“Some of our doctors are pushing back,” Price said. “They say that’s too many.”

A rule put into place by the Social Security Administration in 2017 has made the work of DDS physicians even more critical in deciding an outcome of an application.

Previously a “treating physician rule” required DDS to give more weight to the opinions of an applicant’s personal doctor than doctors hired by DDS. That rule was eliminated, giving doctors hired by DDS more influence in deciding the outcome of applications.

‘Something needs to be done’

After Chrisman was denied, he and his wife found a lawyer in Sevierville to file a request for reconsideration.

In September, Joyce Chrisman came home from work and brought the mail inside their cabin. The letter from Social Security said, “We found that you became disabled under our rules on November 8, 2017.” That was the day after she urged Chrisman to visit the walk-in clinic.

Another physician had examined Alan Chrisman’s file and recommended he be granted disability.

“We said ‘wow,’ ” Chrisman said. “We couldn’t believe it.”

George Garrison, his lawyer, said he was troubled by The Tennessean’s findings.

“People come to me at a point they’re about to lose everything they’ve got,” he said. “They’re sick. They’re dying. They’re having to deal with a complex system.”

The benefit meant that Joyce Chrisman no longer had to worry about paying medical bills. The bills would be paid dating back to the time her husband applied for disability.

His disability approval also automatically qualified Alan Chrisman for TennCare, which is now covering his ongoing chemotherapy, medications and hospitalizations.

Chrisman sits on his couch most of the time. He’s on his 11th dose of chemotherapy. After his 12th next month, he will return for a scan. “Then we’ll go from there,” he said.

Thinking about the months he spent rejected — when he and his wife were barely scraping by — Chrisman gets angry.

“Something needs to be done,” he said. “They’re either getting too much of a caseload or they’re getting greedy.”

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‘I felt guilty for having an illness’ – mum with MS speaks of fight to have benefits reinstated

Dawn Lancaster, 50, says she was made to feel like ‘the lowest of the low’

A mum with multiple sclerosis says she was made to ‘feel guilty for having an illness’ as she fought to have her disability benefits reinstated. Dawn Lancaster, 50, was diagnosed with MS 23 years ago and received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) after having to stop work.

The mum-of-three was granted a lifetime award of the higher rate mobility component and middle rate care. But in May 2017, Dawn, who lives in Macclesfield, faced a reassessment to be moved onto the new benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This resulted in her support being cut to the lower mobility rate and no care component.

She appealed this decision and won when, in December, a tribunal reinstated the benefit to what she was originally entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insist that they’re ‘committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support that they need’.

But Dawn told the Macclesfield Express: “Going through this made me feel the lowest of the low. I felt so guilty for having an illness through no fault of my own. “The stress of appealing put me in a right state, the fatigue and depression paralysed me. “I think PIP would be a much fairer system if the assessors understood how unpredictable MS is. “You can look fine one day, then the next you’re so ill you can’t leave your bed.”

 Dawn’s plight comes as new analysis by the MS Society says the vast majority of people with the condition who appeal their PIP decision after moving from the old benefit go on to win.

The MS Society says the government has unnecessarily spent almost £1m of taxpayers’ money on this process. Recent figures show that in the past five years, independent tribunals ruled in favour of 83 per cent of people with MS who disputed DWP decisions.

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “We are consistently hearing from people with MS about how distressing it is to lose support and then spend months fighting to get it back.”

In response to the MS Society’s claims, a DWP spokesman said: “We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support that they need and, under PIP, 52 per cent of people with MS receive the highest possible award, compared with 39 per cent under the previous benefit DLA.

“We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible.”  YEAH “SURE” THEY DO!!!

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Sick dad kills himself days before Christmas after being found fit for work

EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Dooley was found hanged by his daughter after assessors pulled his employment support allowance

Kevin Dooley was found by his daughter Leanne 

A chronically ill dad killed himself days before Christmas after DWP staff ordered him back to work. Assessors stopped Kevin Dooley’s employment support allowance even though a doctor said he was too sick to do his job.

His daughter Leanne found him hanged after the painter and decorator, who suffered breathing problems caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lost an appeal.

She said: “Christmas will never be the same for our family. The Department for Work and Pensions should be disgusted with themselves.

“Over the last year Dad’s illness got worse, and he got less mobile. Whoever deemed him fit for work is a disgrace.” Dad-of-three Kevin, 48, was signed off five years ago and made ends meet on a £70-a-week ESA benefitand housing support. “He wanted to work, but couldn’t,” said Leanne, 27.

She told how her dad plunged into depression after a grilling at Leeds Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, run by outsourcing firm Maximus for the DWP. “He needed regular haematology appointments and was on three inhalers, steroids and antibiotics,” said the mum of two.

“But because he could walk to the shop and at times minded his grandkids, they said he could work.”

Kevin Dooley was deemed ‘fit for work’

After his appeal failed, Kevin became suicidal. Leanne said: “He worried he’d be homeless as he had to reapply for housing support. He said he thought taking his life was the only way out.”

As Jobcentre staff pressured him, Kevin saw a doctor who confirmed he was too ill to work. Leanne planned to help him take his case to a tribunal – but on December 17 she and twin sisters Paige and Collette, 18, received a text from their dad saying “I love you”.

Leanne found him at home. He died in hospital three days later.

He found out his ESA payments would stop

She now plans to tell an inquest about her dad’s ordeal. “He took his life because of what they did to him,” she said.

The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments said: “We make an assessment of how conditions impact on day-to-day life so DWP can make a decision on an individual’s eligibility for benefits.”

The DWP said a Universal Credit advance payment had been made to Mr Dooley on December 8 after the ESA appeal rejection letter on November 29. It said his “work requirement” had been turned off because he told his work coach he would be challenging the appeal decision.

If you need to speak to someone, Samaritans are available 24/7 by calling 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org

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250K disabled people told to fill in senseless 45-page form to win back their benefits

EXCLUSIVE: DWP chiefs have issued the forms to thousands who are owed £970m in unpaid ESA benefit – leaving people looking for details from seven years ago.

More than 250,000 sick and disabled people are being told to fill out a “scandalous” 45-page form to win back their benefits after a government blunder. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been branded “senseless” after asking families to recall intricate details from up to seven years ago.

The form asks claimants to state exact dates they were in hospital and give details of insurance payouts, mortgage payments and savings. Campaigners warn it is “passing the buck” to benefit claimants who now face an “unnecessary barrier” to justice.

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova branded the form “scandalous”, adding: “People will very often not have kept the evidence the DWP is asking for which could lead to many being denied vital support once again.”

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The form is being sent to thousands of people who are owed £970m in unpaid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) dating back to 2011. The blunder, revealed earlier this year, affects people who moved from older incapacity benefits to ESA between 2011 and 2014. In total 570,000 cases are being reviewed, of which 180,000 are expected to receive back payments by the end of 2019.

DWP chiefs insist everyone owed money will receive it. But some claimants expressed bafflement after the ESA3(IBR) form dropped on their doormats.

Carol Willoughby, 73, from Chessington, was asked to fill in details dating back to February 2013 for her 68-year-old husband Michael. Questions on her form included “please provide dates that you have been an inpatient in hospital” and requests to state amounts of lump-sum state pension, trust fund income and money set aside for essential repairs.

One page of the form asks about money set aside for repairs or from a pension
Mrs Willoughby told the Mirror: “The DWP were supposed to check all the errors and deal with it. “Now they’re putting the onus back onto us to provide all the information going back five years, half of which we won’t have any more.

“It will take me hours. They’re asking ‘have you been in hospital, when were you in, how long were you in for’.” Quizzed about Mr Willoughby’s case, the DWP told the Mirror 261,000 forms had been sent out.

Campaigners were left shocked by the huge figure – which comes weeks after the Mirror revealed up to 15,000 people caught up in the scandal had already died.

James Taylor, Head of Policy at disability charity Scope, said: “This feels like the DWP is passing the buck onto disabled people and their families. “They have already been short-changed by bureaucratic errors in the welfare system that go back nearly a decade.

“The DWP need to make sure that those who have missed out on their full ESA entitlement are payed back promptly with the minimum amount of stress and anxiety.” Claimants are also asked to provide details of payments from ex-partners, if relevant.

Ayaz Manji, policy officer at mental health charity Mind, said the DWP must ensure “nobody falls through the gaps”. He added: “Those of us with mental health problems can struggle to navigate a complex application process.

“The DWP needs to do all it can to take responsibility for fixing these errors.”It’s senseless to place unnecessary barriers in front of those who have already gone through a lengthy, complicated and stressful process.”

A DWP spokeswoman insisted people only need to complete sections that are relevant to their circumstances.

Officials said anyone can seek help completing the form over the phone, and where needed staff can arrange a home visit. DWP officials are also contacting recipients who they do not hear from within three weeks of sending out a form.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We want to have all the information we need to make sure everyone gets the money they are owed and anyone can provide this over the phone with our support.”

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DWP chief Amber Rudd admits disability benefit tests could be failing people

New DWP chief Amber Rudd today admitted she has ‘concerns’ that disability benefit tests could be failing the vulnerable. The Work and Pensions Secretary made the comment days after we told how 72% of tribunal appeals overturn the original test.

Previously the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has emphasised the number of successful appeals is low overall. But today Ms Rudd told MPs: “I do have concerns about the number of appeals that get through, i.e. a lot.

“Which does indicate that maybe those earlier decisions could be better made.”

Last week a DWP spokesperson said: “Since PIP was introduced 3.7 million decisions have been made and just 5% have been overturned.” Previous DWP statements have stated the figure as first 3%, then later 4%.

Ms Rudd made the comments as she faced MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee for the first time. She said she had already scrapped reassessments every two years for the most disabled, replacing them with a “light touch assessment” every 10 years.

She added: “I also think we could do better in terms of the waiting time for assessment.”

20,133 people appealed a decision to change or deny their PIP in the most recent three months (Image: PA)

Assessments are run by private firms but final decisions are made by the DWP.

20,133 people appealed a decision to change or deny their PIP in the most recent three months, of which 14,581 won their case.

All those people had already gone through an internal appeal known as a Mandatory Reconsideration – which MPs today blasted as a “rubber stamp”.

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‘I have MS and my benefits assessments was torture

‘I have MS and my benefits assessments was torture – I was left needing morphine after completing the physical tasks’ Maxine Thompson [below] says an assessor accused her of refusing to lift her legs up when she said she physically couldn’t

Maxine suffers from agonising spasticity which causes her muscles to seize up and lock (Photo: Maxine Thompson)

Maxine Thompson had four interviews last year to reassess her claims Says she was made to sit on a low, hard-back chair for an hour and a half Maxine Thompson has suffered for 12 years with multiple sclerosis – a life-long disease with no cure that is progressive. She once had a “lifetime” award for disability benefits, meaning there was no expiration date set and no need for reassessments. But last year, the 50-year-old was told that this would change – and she had four interviews to test if she was sick enough to carry on claiming.

Woman, 22, who lost leg in crash can no longer get to work after benefits assessors took away her mobility car – as they believe she can walk by herself unaided

Maxine says she was left needing morphine and cannabis after completing the physical tasks as part of the medical for her personal independence payments (PIP), which was carried out by a nurse. “I was made to get out of my wheelchair and sit on a low, hard-back chair for an hour and a half,” she explains.

“I suffer from severe and agonising spasticity, when my muscles seize up and lock. “I was in excruciating pain after sitting there for so long and afterwards in the car I needed morphine and my Sativex spray [a cannabis-based pharmaceutical product]. “It was torture. It’s inhumane to treat sick and disabled people this way.”

Maxine is speaking out to support the MS Society’s 2018 Christmas Appeal. i has partnered up with the charity to ask for donations from readers which will be used to offer grants for equipment and services that improve the quality of life of people with the disabling condition.

I’m Broken, Britain: Judgement day at a disability tribunal

‘She pushed me to try’ It’s not too far away from asking someone to stick pins in themselves to see if it does really hurt Maxine Thompson Maxine’s condition left her paralysed and hospitalised for five months. She has lost her eyesight five times – one time for six months. She relies on a wheelchair or crutches as she is at risk of collapse, and she also suffers from brain fog and severe headaches. Her numbness means she can burn herself without realising.

The social sciences student, from Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland, said that the assessor asked her to lift her leg up as high as she could. “I told her I physically couldn’t as it would cause me too much pain,” she said. “But she pushed me and said I could move to the couch and try. “When I again said that I couldn’t she said: ‘Well, I’ll put that down as a refusal then.’”

pipx

“It’s not too far away from asking someone to stick pins in themselves to see if it does really hurt.” ‘You’re made to feel like a fraud’ Maxine says the assessment process made her feel like “a fraud”. “I have MS and it causes me pain. I shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone. I don’t understand why they need to carry out medical examinations when you have all the paperwork that should be the proof that you’re ill. “I have MRI scans showing lesions on my brain and neck.

I have 12 years of notes from consultants who have documented my symptoms. Why is a nurse – who is not a specialist in MS – in a position where she could override a consultant?”

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The former finance worker was switched from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which prompted the multiple assessments. “I have been awarded my benefits – on a 10-year award basis this time. It’s not like my MS is going to get better suddenly unless they find a cure.

“I know I’m not alone in having to go through this undignifying experience. And other people aren’t as lucky to keep their benefits. I go to a club for people with MS once a month and there are people who have had their cars taken off them. Some are waiting months to find out if their money and if what independence they have will be taken off them.”

PIP reviews for new claimants with the “most severe, lifelong conditions” who were awarded the highest level of support and whose needs were not expected to decrease. Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton, promised they would only receive a “light touch” review of their award every 10 years.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson said:  “Assessments are an important of the benefit system, to ensure that people get the right level of support. However, one person’s poor experience is one too many. Under PIP 52% of people with MS receive the highest possible award, compared with 39 per cent under the previous benefit DLA.

“We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible, and we recently announced that people with the most severe, life-long conditions will no longer have to attend regular reviews for PIP.”

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