The Veterans’ Advocacy People: crucial PIP Award
Often mental health difficulties can be hard to understand. We can’t see them so we might think they’re not real, or that the person can really do the things they say they can’t. Read how our Veterans’ advocate, Jane (not her real name), supported Elizabeth (not her real name) in overturning an assessment for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) where Elizabeth felt judged on how she looked and spoke, rather than what she said.
In the years since leaving the military, Elizabeth’s mental and physical health had both got worse to the point that she went on the Combat Stress treatment programme. During the programme, they found that Elizabeth had had her PIP withdrawn. They asked The Veterans’ Advocacy People to support her to appeal this decision.
Elizabeth told me that she had prepared for her PIP assessment to make sure she was able to tell the assessor about her mental health condition. Sadly, her efforts to speak confidently about her difficulties resulted in the assessor claiming, amongst other things, that Elizabeth did not ‘look’ as if she suffered from any mental health issues.
The withdrawal of PIP was devastating for Elizabeth. She was left with very little money coming in and had to ask a family member for a loan. The worry about whether she could pay her bills and getting into debt made her mental health condition worse. She was afraid to leave her home or speak to people.
Elizabeth was finding it almost impossible to trust anyone so, as her advocate, I had to slowly build that trust so that I could help and support her with claiming this crucial PIP award. I noticed that she found it difficult to speak on the phone or read and reply to my emails. Over time, as I gained Elizabeth’s trust, we agreed a text message system which worked really well. For example, I would text Elizabeth to tell her when I had sent her an email and make telephone appointments by text.
I went with Elizabeth to an appointment I had arranged with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to find out about appealing the PIP decision. Following that appointment, and with help from the CAB, I submitted an appeal on Elizabeth’s behalf. As part of the preparation, I helped her to understand lots of complicated information the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had sent her.
I attended the first Tribunal hearing with Elizabeth where it was decided that they needed a particular piece of information before they could make a final decision. As Elizabeth had not been told that this information was essential, the Tribunal was sympathetic, offering Elizabeth some time to find it and send it to them.
This left Elizabeth feeling ready to give up but after talking it through with me she decided that she wanted to continue.
Then COVID-19 and lockdown came along and all Tribunals were postponed. However, I continued to provide remote advocacy, supporting Elizabeth to get the outcome she so desperately needed. After several emails, many phone calls and one final impassioned letter (copied to the client’s MP by Elizabeth’s close friend), an urgent hearing was listed.
This was a telephone hearing which, as Elizabeth’s advocate, I was invited to join to add detail at the end of the evidence presented by Elizabeth. The result was an award of standard daily living allowance and enhanced mobility. The backdated amount, included reinstated ESA, was close to £12,000. Elizabeth was delighted with this outcome, phoning me afterwards to say how much advocacy helped her through the process, giving her the strength to speak up and be heard.
This is such a relief and I’m so grateful for your help. I can’t find the words to say how helpful you have been … thank you.