The PIP process can be really hard for those with chronic illness
My personal opinion is that the processes for PIP (Personal Independence Payment), the benefit that replaced DLA (Disability Living Allowance) - both the initial application and subsequent reviews - is made as difficult as possible, so that people just give up with their application. Perhaps that’s to stop the benefits cheats, but personally, I think that when you’re chronically ill, it can be really hard to manage this sort of thing and the process takes its toll on you.
I am ‘lucky’ that I do get a PIP. I say lucky in inverted commas because of the unpleasantness of the overall experience. In this blog, I’ll share my most recent PIP experience and offer my own personal tips for anybody currently or about to go through it.
My next PIP review is due April 2019
I received my review paperwork for this in April 2018 – a whole year in advance. This was the same 40-page medical questionnaire I filled out the very first time I applied. If none of my details had changed, this would have been particularly irksome – but I did need to advise them of a new additional medical condition, so it wasn’t such a big deal this time around, but imagine if I was just writing the exact same thing as the last time… 40 pages worth! For any new readers of my blog: I am somewhat a collector of medical conditions – not all related to my ileostomy or Ulcerative Colitis.
So, I completed my questionnaire and sent it back in April, just 7 months after I received the final decision about my last review, in August 2017, which was back-dated to April 2017! You can see how people get confused. In the last 3 months, a team have analysed all 40 pages of the form and this week I am to attend a face-to-face consultation so they can ‘further understand’ my condition. This part of the process, in my opinion, is particularly stressful, as these people – although called ‘specialists’ usually haven’t even read my notes, let alone Googled my conditions. So I’ll likely spend a lot of time explaining to them what each condition is, and I don’t have anything straightforward like back pain – I’m a complicated lady! I joke, but it is really very stressful.
In my personal experience, because of this lack of understanding, I’ve had to go through a few appeals. This team of specialists usually go back to HQ and give me a lower score than the previous review (despite significant worsening due to additional medical conditions) which results in my PIP being cut. I appeal; they stick to their decision because hopefully I’ll go away. But I know my conditions, my facts and I stick to my guns too – where necessary, I’ve taken it to tribunal. However, it should be noted that I am only able to do this thanks to some wonderful disability charities that have given me some wonderful free advice on how to appeal and support myself through this process. I’ll share some of it below:
My top tips for getting through the PIP process:
1. Before you start, get all your medical paperwork together including hospital letters, prescriptions lists, referrals and such.
2. Complete the form in pencil first, it might seem time consuming but it can cut down processing time if your information is neat and clear.
3. Ask close friends, family and even work colleagues of any side effects they notice or difficulties they are aware of, that impact on your day to day activities. It is easy to forget or fail to recognise something as an issue when it has become your norm.
4. Before you send everything off, take copies of everything including the form. This way if anything is lost, there is no delay replacing it. It will also help you when it comes to your review (if nothing has changed).
5. Be aware it is a long process and use varying support networks to reduce your stress levels. Be it friends, family, social media or forums; do whatever you do to have fun – game, read, go to the beach.
Stay strong – and let’s draw strength from one another
I consider myself an incredibly strong person, especially when there is a cause to be fought for, but even I have been in tears when having to defend myself and my conditions to a tribunal doctor. So I can understand completely why people give up or don’t even attempt to claim… or worse than that, during the process find themselves in a very dark place. But if we work together and share our stories and tips, we can draw strength from one another.