Sunday, 30 December 2012

My ATOS story - the appeal - DWP

Here's where it starts to get complicated.  I have to split this into two or possibly three different parts, although these strands were all happening at the same time.  So this strand will concentrate on the DWP.

After opening and reading the award letter, I went to pieces.  Using the phone is horrible for various reasons - physically holding it, trying to have a conversation, especially with strangers who can't be expected to fill in gaps in speech for me, or understand when I'm silent that I'm not being rude, or that when I'm crying, I'm actually not shouting (a mistake that has been made more than once).  Suffice to say that my original call requesting information and a copy of the medical report was completely ignored.  After waiting a month, I was told to wait another fortnight.  After that too passed without any sign of my paperwork, I became so emotionally unstable that K had to take over.

And this is the point at which I made contact with L, who rapidly became our DWP guardian angel.  L arranged for us to collect a copy of the medical reports submitted by my consultant and by the ATOS doctor, Dr X, which she had faxed to my local jobcentre plus.

My own consultant had done nothing to fill in the forms other than sign them and return them blank.  This, I surmise, was the reason for the assessment.  Had the DWP contacted the hospital to find out why?  Of course not.  But at least here was something I could do for myself.   I contacted the hospital, had an appointment with the rheumatology nurse specialist most familiar with me, and she wrote a full and detailed letter outlining each and every one of my medical conditions, the impact of each on my life, and the fact that these were all debilitating, chronic and degenerative conditions.  They're not going to get better, only worse, and I have to live life as best I can with them.  This letter was dispatched direct to DWP, copied to me, within a month of the blank form.

Dr X's report was a whole different ball game, to be dealt with in the next chapter.  I made a formal complaint about it, which resulted in it being rubbished and overturned by a senior ATOS manager.   Despite promises that the formal complaint would not hold up the reconsideration, the only time that L let me down in the months to come (and it wasn't her fault), the reconsideration, which should have taken 11 weeks, in fact took nearly twice that.  Armed with evidence that the ATOS report was completely discredited, and another letter backing up every one of my claims from medical staff who actually knew my case history, 3 months after my appeal, I received the reconsideration decision.  The same decision maker had, surprise surprise, upheld her own original decision despite all the evidence to the contrary.  And her evidence was questionably an unsigned form offering an "expert" medical opinion from an unnamed individual who had not, nor ever would, so much as send me an email; and of which there remains no trace on DWP's own computer system.    I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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