As Benefit Reforms in the UK start to take grip I have been asked by four people to become involved in their appeal against the decision to withdraw benefit payments from four of our members. In the past all four members who have contacted me have been awarded Incapacity Benefit as their Pernicious Anaemia have meant that they have been unable to carry on with their jobs – just like me. One of the claimants was physically disabled and whilst this in itself was not a barrier to employment it was the brain fogs, memory loss and total exhaustion that were the real problem to keeping a job that was shared by all claimants.
It’s a tricky situation. The assessment panel that made the decision to stop the benefit payments will have had a doctor as one of the panelists; and the decision will have been made on his or her recommendation or opinion. I realise that I cannot challenge the view of a qualified medical professional but what I can do is to state the truth – that a great many of our 8,000 members are still symptomatic even after replacement therapy treatment of B12 has begun. And that those symptoms will vary in severity from patient to patient which will mean that som patients will be unable to concentrate on their work. This will mean that some patients will need their employer or employee will either have to find alternative work perhaps within the same company, or work in a more flexible environment where time off can be taken on ‘bad days’. In the worst scenario the employee will have to leave the world of work. These are facts that I can be certain of and ones which the appeals panel may not be aware of.
My input comes in the form of a letter to ‘whoever it may concern’. This can then be used by the defence team to try to convince the panel that the patient is genuinely unable to work due to his or her medical condition.
Obviously the major problem is that Pernicious Anaemia has no outward noticeable signs that the patient is suffering. And this is compounded by the established view and understanding of most, though not all physicians, that once replacement therapy injections of B12 have begun then the patient will be able to lead a normal lifestyle. And yes, I can understand why they believe that as the patient’s serum B12 will usually have returned to normal. I remember bringing this problem to the attention of a Haematologist who was genuinely stunned with my observation that many members of the PA Society are still symptomatic after injection have begun. He pondered on it for nearly an hour before asserting that this would probably be due to the patient, having been deprived of B12 for any amount of time, would probably have suffered from scarring to the brain tissue. Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence to back this up. In the letter I also state that doctors are unable to explain why some people are still symptomatic – but that doesn’t mean that they – the patients – don’t suffer and experience the symptoms of the disease once replacement therapy injections of B12 have begun.
Well, of the four letter that I wrote over the past three weeks, two were successful and the members told me that the letter was read out to the panel and the appeal was upheld. Unfortunately the other two members had their appeal turned down.
Last year, two members were facing an employment tribunal because they were under-performing in the workplace. One was a senior police office and the other was an architect. Both were successful in being transferred to another department (the police officer) where a more flexible employment regime was possible and the other was allowed to take early retirement on grounds of ill health with an enhanced pension. So it does help to have the PAS on your side if you are facing employment or social welfare benefit problems.