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Author Topic: New Here ... ESA APPEAL Hell  (Read 3112 times)
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Kellie
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« on: September 18, 2017, 03:20:30 AM »

Hello Everyone,

My Name is Kellie, and like everyone I am a sufferer of CFS/M.E.  I have had this since I was 15 (now 48) in varying degrees.  Some times I have been able to work but not for the last 10 years and have been on ESA (which I was moved to from Income Support).  For the now 3rd time I am facing all the glorious hassle of having to have a Tribunal Appeal and I am so frustrated at how this latest one has unfolded.  Apparently unbeknown to myself there have been changes since the last Tribunal Appeal I undertook, and now life in general has become intolerable daily. 

July 2017, I had a home assessment, which I asked for.  The Assessor came 45 minutes late, did not perform a physical as I was in pain but said it would be alright.  He still did not.  Then I had the Q&A part take less than 30 minutes with no opportunity to explain properly how I am affected on a daily basis.  Later I was told by someone from ESA on the phone I should have presented the worst case scenario when he was there so he could physically see.  All of this threw me and I was not suprised when I got the decision back with 6 points and being told they thought I was capabable of working.  I wanted to scream.

I then found out that my ESA was cut immediately, no notice and spent more time on the phone to the DWP asking what next, what do I do.  Fill out forms for JSA as becuase I am single it is the only benefit I can claim.  More Stress building, having a terrible effect on every part of me from mental health to physical.

Of course, I Appealed and when the Mandatory Reconsideration came through, once again they feel I am capable of work.  I just cried. 

I found out during this part that during the appeal phase, unlike the last 2 they do not lower your ESA rate, just stop it all together and you have to then find out what you can claim.  The bills are coming in, there is no money in the bank, the stress is killing me, and I have the energy of a flea.

To then find out that with JSA you have to sign on physically.  I live quite some distance from my Employment Office so for the last few times I have had to fork out to get a cab as it is the only way physically I can travel without creating immense problems.  After a few weeks I have managed to talk to the woman who deals with my case, that it is impossible without causing severe problems for me to keep doing this, so now she has found a way that I can go on sick and not have to physically be there for 3 months.  Great and now my GP is on holiday!

Now, comes the biggie, the putting in for another Appeal, the Tribunal one....and again down to me to find all the forms, information, ect ect to do this, find the time and energy to dispute everything that has not been awarded points, get it on paper and to them within one month.  Has anyone else here had to go through this..I am seriously at the end here and I have no idea where to go for help or anything, should I get legal involved? I am totally drained, wiped, on the floor, no energy...I just want to sleep, and stay asleep.  I cant focus and the whole of my life is upturned - there is only so much one can take any yet you go on fighting.  How can you survive on a paltry sum of money as well....I would really welcome any help, advice, suggestions or just anyone happy to talk to me as another sufferer.  I am alone with no support and finding this so very very very hard.

Thanks,

Kels
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roger
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 07:32:59 AM »

Hi Kellie, and welcome to the forum.

What you've been forced to go through sounds horrendous and I'm really sorry that you've been put through this. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the benefits system but hopefully someone will post with something constructive soon.  fingerscrossed

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neptuno
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 08:38:44 AM »

Hi Kellie !   I'm not a Benefits expert but I have jumped through these hoops so I understand how drained you feel.
I hope I understand so far..... as the DWP have not revised their decision to award ESA following your request for a Mandatory Reconsideration you next step is to request a Tribunal hearing. You should have the paperwork to do that and it will tell you what you have to do and how long you have to do it.

You need to get a copy of the assessors report, also from DWP, as soon as you can. This will show you how they scored your ability to do each task. Go through it with a fine toothcomb and challenge it point by point showing where you DO score points and refereeing to your supporting evidence. If you need new letters from a consultant or GP or other health professional you will be able to ask for the detail you need. There is an excellent FB online support group with files to guide you through this and what options are available to you - UK ME & Chronic Illness Benefits & advice group.
It would be my next step. You are not alone and there is help out there for you !!

CAB should be able to assist you, and you could google welfare adviser and your postcode for someone local. Your council should have a welfare adviser who can tell you what is available to you specifically where you live, and your GP surgery may have access to other agencies. Maybe there is a local ME support group in your area or you could contact the ME Association ?  Google Benefitsandworks, it is a subscription benefits site, you may decide its worth joining.

The Tribunal system is not quick. In the meantime have you considered claiming PIP ? Have a look at the FB group I suggested x



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ElizaabethR
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 08:26:57 PM »

 s_hi Kellie


I've been through what you've been through. Had ME/CFS and fibromyalgia since 2010 and crohns since 2003. Had to stop work in2010.

I got ESA support group straight away but then on review two years later I went straight  "fit for work go and sign on". Well as you cn imagine I flipped and had a breakdown. How can you go from support group to fit for work in one fell swoop.I have a double whammy as my husband has been disabled for a long time so I have to do everything. My gp wrote a very strong letter about how they were affecting my health. They changed the decision within 3 days but the damage had been done and I was back in bed.

I tried for Dla for two years and went to appeal twice with the last one saying I lied. Does nothing for the stress levels!

I tried again when it was pip and I had success with that.

I  have a local ME support group and the project worker took me to assessments. I thank the fact that I could say I had a support worker helped.

There is also a disability and equality office (charity) who helped me. Welfare rights are quite good and they can help to fill in forms and advise and sometimes go with you to appeals.
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Kellie
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2017, 02:41:15 PM »

Hi everyone,  s_hi, Wow I am very very overwhelmed by the wonderful and helpful advice from some of you.  It certainly is making sense now, But I am going to say I actually cried when I read all your responses becuase I have never been able to talk about this with anyone, especially family.  They think its not real and just an excuse not to work.  I cannot tell you how irritated and angry that makes me and especially as my sister is 62...you would think eh, but know she goes on the internet for a few days and the miraculously knows everything about ME/CFS lol, oh and all the DWP paperwork...unreal.  I only tolerate it becuase she is my sister otherwise I would be sitting her down and giving her an education.  She does not offer support of any kind, she has money and still will not help unburden my financial woes....I find that terrible personally, I never asked for this, ME just happened.....and sometimes I need bloody help and support.  So my sister as I said is on another planet absorbed in her own world.  I know I sound mean but how hurtful is it when you cancel something and you say becuase you are sick, and then you hear 'What Again" tut tut tut. 

Moving on, you are amazing, I have started to looking into your suggestions and so far so good.  I will keep you updated.  I sent the Tribunal paperwork back today...I need to get that report you mentioned and go through it bit by bit.  It was sill things like hearing...I am deaf since birth in My left ear, and suffer from Titus confirmed at hospital which affects sleeping as do many other things.  SO this is what I have to deal with but you have all given me the strength to carry on, get tough and win.  So Thank you again.  I am so happy I found this forum becuase for the first time ever I feel like I am not alone and can talk through my problems with no judgement and you are a lovely bunch of people.

I meant to say I live in Chertsey, Surrey and there is no ME support group here at all.  It needs one badly. I would offer but I am so not strong enough. So I keep asking my doctor for this to be set up by medical professionals as well as everything else.  I am a bit hyper today, this is what my medication does to me and also I have not slept in nearly 48 hours.  My mind is buzzing and I feel very depressed and everything hurts,.... but onwards and upwards.....I am not going to let them the DWP win.....
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roger
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 03:04:53 PM »

Great attitude, Kellie, and that's a worthwhile part of winning the battle.

It's difficult to make promises, but one I can make is that you'll find support here whenever you might need it.
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agapanthus
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 11:26:49 AM »

Hello Kellie
So glad that you are going to fight this decision. It is clearly wrong and needs to be challenged, but I do understand the stress involved in this which has got a lot worse for people since the system was tightened up a couple of years ago. To have to go through a mandatory consideration without income is insane as I know it can take weeks. I hope someone has told you that once the MC has gone past and you are able to get onto the appeal stage (assuming that your MC fails and sadly many do), then a basic rate of money (same as Jobseeker's Allowance) should be reinstated while you wait for the appeal. As you are now on JSA I doubt that anyone has told you this.

Here is a rather lengthy but useful piece explaining the law on it now and it has paragraphs specifically dealing with reclaiming the ESA money (you can get it backdated as long as you provide the relevant sicknotes), and also what to do if you are on JSA but want to change to ESA again while the process is happening. http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/benefit-during-employment-and-support-allowance-dispute

Restoration of ESA
Although there is no requirement to submit a claim to secure entitlement to ESA pending appeal, if a claimant has been receiving JSA, s/he will need to contact the DWP to relinquish the JSA claim and confirm s/he wants to be paid ESA pending appeal. The DWP should restore entitlement to ESA from the day after the JSA award ends.

There's a lot more to this, so you will need to read it through carefully to find what applies to you.

I am glad that others have given you some useful advice. Worst case scenario is that you can contact your MP and get some extra leverage from them. You could do that anyway if you have the energy - you can write or make an appointment (although the latter will be very hard on you re cost and energy).

I am sorry I did not write sooner (I used to give benefits advice on here) but I fell down the stairs on Sun pm and I have been dealing with the afermath of that. Thankfully I didn't break anything it seems, but I landed on my back and it's been pretty hellish at times.

I was previously on ESA myself and had 4 assessments in 5 years, but despite that, things were easier then and I managed to get into the Support Group OK. I doubt that I would now, but I am now retired luckily.

 Also I now help to advocate for my adult son who has severe mental health issues, and over the past 5 years have worked through his ESA twice, DLA, DLA to PIP, (plus reconsideration where they actually agreed to increase it), and managed to get him funding for care at home, and because of the medical evidence I gathered on his behalf, he hasn't had to have a 'face to face' for over 10 years now. He has just heard re ESA again and managed to get through, again without a face to face assessment, but now I am dreading the Universal Credit which is coming...

Do come back for more support as and when and I hope you can get a better decision in time. I am sorry about your lack of family empathy and support. Sadly it's not unusual.
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neptuno
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« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 03:15:05 PM »

Hi Kellie,
We will try to support you as much as we can just let us know if you need help
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 12:11:59 PM »

Hi Kellie

I'm glad you feel a bit more supported now. I dont know if you have a branch of Disability and Equality or Disability First where you are but they are excellent at helping do forms with you.

I understood your anger and frustration but I have long since learnt that some of the people who don't understand are not worth using your energy for. Very rarely can you change how they think or their perception but you can change how you let it affect you. Let  go of the anger it will eat you up. I accessed cognitive behaviour therapy and it was invaluable in changing my way of coping with things. Also mindfulness, which is meditation based, helps you live in the now not past or future (theres no point worrying about what you can't change). I know that seems easier said than done and I struggled at first. I did mindfulness through the nhs but I don't think they're funding it now. In my area we have "Minds Matter" and the "Wellbeing Service " both nhs funded which I've used. Google them.

Eliza x
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Kellie
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2017, 11:36:39 AM »

Hi everyone,

Here's this weeks update.  I have to say a huge thanks to Agapanthus for the vital information supplied regarding the ESA dispute.  I am just about to look into this and make a few phone calls and all in the nick of time.  Its worth probably me letting you know I used to work as a Legal Executive, so this is very much up my street in terms of getting all the facts and information before the next move.

I went to my JSA Advisor last week, who again was great and understands the situation happening.  This is what is now happening, unless I find out otherwise.  I am submitting a SSP Cert to the JSA covering 3 months, which will either end in one of a few results..the JSA will be stopped and I have to Claim ESA again under the Dispute scenario (this seems very likey) or it will keep me on JSA.  I have been very specific in keeping it 3 months for this reason, it may be decided that as long as it is only the appointments I cannot attend, then continue with the JSA.  I have no idea what will happen but at a guess and just gut instinct I think the first.  So research today and submitting tommorrow. 

When I saw my Doctor today, she was quite horrified and annoyed at my situation, we have been here before with Tribunals, but now the rules have changed she was very disturbed by what is now the new 'normal'.  She has promised to fight with me which is great news.  She also noted that despite the plethora of stress, a bad headcold, and up and down depression that I was so angry being put through this that I had almost flounder my old self in fighting irrespective of everything else and  she was quite pleased as it means I am not going to just fade into another ESA rejected story. 

So here we go...wish me luck...I will let you know what happens.  As always I absolutely love you all for your help and support.  I really find that it gives me the energy and will to carry on.  The money is still a joke though....but thats for another time.....for the moment lets just say frugal got a whole new meaning.
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2017, 12:11:02 PM »

Sounds to me like you're going about this the right way, Kellie - I do wish you luck, but I suspect that you won't need it  smile
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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2017, 06:59:40 PM »

Hello again Kellie. I am so glad that I was able to provide some helpful material for you. What with you as an ex Legal Executive and me as an ex Library Assistant we make an awesome duo for research purposes. I was always told as an LA that it was not what you knew but how to find it.

Also good to hear that your JSA Advisor and your Doctor are both supportive. Hope that will help you to fight this decision.

If you do end up going for the ESA scenario, I wonder if they are able to give you a benefits 'advance' given that you are appealing the decision and they must know that your standard rate is reinstated and backdated? I rather fear not but worth asking maybe, as I assume you haven't go much to live on right now.

You could do with a real live benefits advisor on this issue, as it's a bit complicated, but I know they are thin on the ground. Do let us know how you get on and which direction you go with this.

If you go for the JSA option for 3 months though, what happens at the end of that time?
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Kellie
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« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2017, 04:11:39 AM »

Thanks Agapanthus for your help.  You are absolutely spot on with the 'not much to live on' aspect currently becuase of deductions (which I have since had lowered) I had £110 to cover a fortnight!!!! What with rent (£15 p/w), gas, Elec and food..its astonishing I havent lost my mind.  I mean who can exist on that paltry pittance?  So, I've applied for a loan, just to have some emergency finances, and pay the phone bill which is essential.  But with your advice again, I am going to add the backdating on ESA if I can reclaim on Dispute.  More calls, research and so on.  Why they do not make this easier is beyond me, wait no....its just a very messed up system designed to put you off as much as possible I think thats better. 

Health wise, still going through this ghastly cold, never does it take 3/5 days to go, more like 3/5 weeks.  Along with the normal of pain 24/7, wanting to sleep and then not being able to, woke up for 5th day at 4am., and the rest which I know I dont need to put in here..... lets say I feel very challenged.  It has definately NOT done me any favours in the mental health direction, so more pills to add to the plethora of other ones.  I'm not sure if anyone is given things like Tramadol, and zimovane to help with all the ailments, becuase those alone make you zombie state like, without taking additional anti-depressants.... I mean hardy work reliable/committed is it....not according to ESA....I can work under zombie conditions....another reason I am fighting them with - how ridiculous.  Any way again thanks for the support,advice and love from you all.......I am so thankful I came across this place, becuase It has made a significant change, and thats a good thing.  In a lot of ways I feel that me having to go through all of this and document it here may one day be helpful to someone in a similar situation....just to see you are not alone is important.
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2017, 04:11:31 PM »

Hello Kels
Considering what you are going through, I am sorry to hear that you have a bad cold on top of the rest. I am not surprised that your immune system has taken a bad hit, and I know what you mean about taking a long time to recover.

My immune system was struggling in the summer this year, and I had some tests done to check my immunoglobulins and you could see that the levels were below range, but I can afford to ask my herbalist to give me some Astragalus which has made all the difference. In your situation you are down to the absolute essentials I know.

Have you thought of asking your Dr (or Jobcentre)to give you a voucher and to refer you to a food bank just while you get over the worst of this situation? Just thinking then that it might give what you have of your finances a small boost to help with the rest of the essentials. None of this is ideal I know but you clearly need more help and I know how hard it is to access that at short notice. Also I realise that it may be too far for you to travel to also.

I do hope that you can get back on to ESA and get some of that backpay as that would make all the difference to you.

Thinking of you and hoping you can get to a better place asap.  I know someone suggested applying for PIP. I don't expect you can cope with more paperwork at present, but definitely something to think of for the future. Maybe you were on DLA previously?

Aggie x
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Kellie
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« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2017, 01:34:09 PM »

Hi all, just an update... it might serve of interest for anyone in the future going through my situation on par.  I submitted an JSA28 Form with a Doctors SSP for 3 months, this has been accepted and means no more trips to the DWP office everything can be dealt with on the phone/internet. There are a couple of avenues that I will be going down and that is the query to ESA of going back on ESA due to dispute with ESA going to Tribunal.

I have also decided that trying to do the Tribunal on my own, whilst is just about copeable, its in not going to end up being the best for me so, I am going to see a solicitor, try and get Legal Aid, and have them work with me and present my case when it comes over.  This is going to be a nightmare but I am used to this particular Solicitor as its my old boss and we make a good team so....updates as I go.  I just feel that there are times to fight yes and then there are times to get ready for a war, this one of them

Surviving on the paltry sum of allowance the JSA gives us is causing headaches and also I have noticed that I am not looking after myself as I should be.  Aggie I thank you for your food bank suggestion...I have a feeling I will need it.

As always, any help is always welcome, comments and suggestions as well.

Some success this week though with the JSA accepting the 3 month sick Cert....so on the right track! Finally!

Thank you friends,

Kels x
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« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2017, 01:38:53 PM »

Hi Kellie,

As mentioned previously, I'm unable to offer meaningful advice/suggestions, but I would like to wish you all the luck in the world  fingerscrossed
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« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2017, 05:49:14 PM »

Hello again Kels and thank you for coming back for the update.

I am in touch with someone at the local Oxfam where I volunteer who is also signed on to the Jobcentre with Universal Credit and she too appears to be going through a similar route to yours. She was on disability benefits for years, but I am assuming that she too went through an ESA and lost it. Although she is still volunteering with Oxfam, she has been allowed to stop the job searching for now while she is signed off as it were. I am surprised she is managing to do the volunteering but they have encouraged her to keep going (she suffers from mental illness and a back pain problem).

I only mention this because I wonder what happens at the end of the 3 months to you and to her. She has been told that she might have to have an assessment again if she is still ill, so will they in your case agree for you to go back on ESA? It is possible though that would be a NEW application so your other previous application may still stand and be a separate one. I don't know enough about how they manage these things, and not sure they do with the new UC!

Going to a solicitor you know sounds a good plan, but my worry from your point of view is that I thought Legal Aid was almost gone now for this kind of thing. You mentioned that you had a background as a legal executive, so I expect you have researched this. It's just that I know this Govt did so many cuts on legal aid, that it's not available for very much now at all and not for First Tier Tribunal which this would be, only for the Upper Tribunal which is only allowed on a point of law. Speaking to someone may help though, especially as they may have the contacts to get you to someone who CAN help you. I did a google and found this link which explains some of the process and about Legal Aid problems, and there are further links at the bottom of places that may help. https://www.talaw.org.uk/legal-help-with-benefit-appeals-and-reviews/

I am so sorry to be the bearer of bad news over this and hope that your old boss might give you some help for free maybe? It may be worth ringing the ME Association and see what help they can offer to you. Also don't forget that there were a few suggestions in the thread above when you first posted here. Have a look again at those for support. It is very hard to do alone, but that Facebook group does have a buddy system and they are very helpful. UK M.E. & Chronic Illness Benefits Advice Group.

As you are very up against it financially, consider looking at the website Turn2Us as there are organisations that may be able to provide you with a grant to tide you over. I have applied for grants for someone who has ME and MCS and had some success but I know it takes more time and energy that you do not have. If you are not able to eat properly though, or buy things you absolutely need or pay bills there may be a charity who will help.

At worst, although you have unsympathetic relatives, even consider shaming them by asking them for help. If they realised how little you are managing on I would hope it would prompt them into some concern. I once wrote round in an emergency to some of my relatives when my son was in financial crisis and we had very little and they did come up with some money for him!

How are things with your housing? Are you still getting housing benefit OK?

Very best wishes from me, and glad that something good came about with the 3 months respite from the DWP re JSA.

Aggie x





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« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2017, 06:40:43 PM »

Hi Aggie and everyone... s_hi

Well done you have some extremely valid questions I need t get answers for.  As you already know Legal Aid is practically non existent, but there are or there use to be exceptions according to circumstances.  But I suspect that You are right and it will be a no to Liz representing me in the Tribunal unless she does it as a favour.  Iíll ask in any case, and I have been out of the business for 10 years and Legal everything is constantly changing. 

I have no idea wha happens after the 3 months are up either, which is why I am going to find out about getting back on ESA for the original dispute until the Tribunal is over.  It might be a waste of time if I donít succeed and the put me back on JSA.  Looking into PIP, I will get the forms....maybe I will have to start a new claim with ESA after 3 months but it cant be for the same problem I believe..so may have to tweak it a bit or tell them I am worse.

Sorry to say but with the exception of my son, my family are really not going to help, I have asked and they knw exactly how much I am having to cope with financially, still nothing.  My father lives in Canada as well, retired now living off his savings, but I did ask, and again he canít.  Make me angry especially with my sister who has no financial problems and goes on holiday anywhere every fortnight for a few weeks.  She says she has her own family to take care of which is true.  all the same a little help wouldnít put a dent in her lifestyle.  Its frustrating and I fear that it would take something serious to wake her up to whats happening.  So truly I am on my own.  But again Iíll look i in to your advice for food, grants, ect..... cannot afford to not do that.

Housing Benefit is ok....a little behind but I am guessing thats to do with the transition to JSA, Council Tax I paid in full for the year...but for some reason they want another £50.00.  I have to tell them whats going on as well...just have not got around to it.

So much to do lol.....and I still have to do my argument for the Tribunal...just need a date fo it, then I can submit it as I said it would be later and other paperwork to the are valid my case.

If I wasnít so exhausted all the time, or not in Ian, or not going through another virus and the rest....I would love to go back to work....seems I am doing a lot for this Tribunal....! 

Anyway, thanks again Aggie......you are a star.

Kels
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« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2017, 02:39:27 PM »

Managing all that is much like a full time job, which is doubly hard when you are ill and not in the best state to be trying to deal with any of it. I am sure you are slowly chipping away at it though and a little bit done every day will get it done eventually.

I am so sorry to hear about your unhelpful family, especially when you have had to swallow your own pride to ask them. It must be very hurtful.

Yes, you may have to get your GP's help to write for a new ESA application eventually and for them to back up your claim on worsening, or different condition. I have a feeling that the new condition or worsening rule is only for 6 months, but I may be wrong on that.

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« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2017, 04:20:20 PM »

I think you're right Aggie...6 months unless you can argue you've had the symptoms for longer but only recently been given a diagnosis ?
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« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2018, 10:57:08 AM »

Hi Everyone,

Well I FINALLY GOT BACK ONTO ESA. 

I wanted to update you all as it has been a while and many of you were very kind and pointed me in the right direction and gave some excellent advice.

So, just before Christmas just gone, I had a conversation with ESA after spending what seems like an eternity but was 13 weeks of being on JSA but with sick notes., and found out that as that JSA claim with a period of 13 weeks of being continuously sick warranted a claim under still waiting for tribunal - I sent them more sick notes and withing a few weeks was back on the ESA but on the Awaiting Tribunal situation.  According to them I could have done this at anytime during the JSA sickness period and as soon as the second appeal was not successful so it has come down to lack of informations that is right coming from the DWP - so my advice is as soon as you fail the second appeal (i have forgotten the name) and you put in for Tribunal - you can go ahead and claim to go back on ESA pending Tribunal with out all this hassle of JSA.  I am sorry if my explanation is drawn out as I am not too well at the moment but I did want to say Thank you to everyone who helped (Aggie) and I hope this helps anyone out there who is in the same position I was.

Kellie
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roger
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« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2018, 11:07:22 AM »

 clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

I hope your 'not too well at the moment' improves very soon  fingerscrossed
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« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2018, 03:56:23 PM »

Hello Kellie
Good to hear that at least you are back on track with the ESA payment, although I know at this stage it's not a lot to live on.

By the 'second appeal' I think you probably mean 'the reconsideration'. Unfortunately it is a bit of a farce right now, as I suspect very few are looked at seriously at this point by the Decision Maker at the DWP. Once you get to the Tribunal, that at least is independent. Do you have a date for that yet?

I hope you are able to improve your health again, once this horrible stress is reduced.
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