When I applied for Disability Living Allowance in March 2013 I had no idea whatsoever I'd be waiting almost an entire year for a straight yes or no. Yesterday was my tribunal, having asked for explanations & reconsiderations, getting back up information from doctors & health care professionals...and most of all waiting...LOTS of waiting!
Anxiety is a huge trigger for me at the best of times, I feel dizzy & sick & I faint & can't breathe at the most trivial-seeming things so as you can imagine I was a bit of a mess going into this whole thing & only decided to ask for an appeal because so many decisions get overturned when showing up in person. Because of all of this I elected my best friend as representative, thinking they'd then allow him to do all the talking & I could just chip in for anything he couldn't answer...so you can imagine my reaction when they decided to tell me this wouldn't be the case! My representative becomes another observer, another person to look broken & ridiculous in front of, an added pressure rather than a relief. Thanks!
I'd requested a disabled access room (though why they don't automatically use those for DLA tribunals I have no idea), so was quite frustrated when the clerk asked me if I could get out of my scooter & walk into the room because of the narrow doorways & tight turn to get into the room. Thankfully my scooter is fairly narrow with a really good turning circle so I managed to get in & out of the room with only a few little door frame bumps.
In the room along with the clerk I was introduced to the judge, doctor & care specialist, the latter being a trainee so came with an additional observer. Not a pleasant number of complete strangers getting to decide my fate, aargh! As much as they say it's informal & they're all nice you can't help but feel they're just trying to trip you up & make you say the wrong thing. The trainee care specialist in particular was very leading with her questions & extremely accusatory, at one point even earning herself what looked like a *you overstepped the mark there* glare from the judge which shut her up briefly before she went on to tell me how I should buy incontinence pads & a bed protector & a different sized chair for causing myself more kitchen injuries & adapted utensils...the list went on & needless to say none of it was affordable without the DLA money. Despite asking if my condition was about the same now as it was in April & deciding to ask me lots of questions about now as a result, they managed to come to the conclusion that my condition is worse now than a year ago. A year ago when I had failed to manage to get back to work even on phased return & was back on long term sick, when I was bed ridden most days, when I was completely cut off from my social life & when it was deemed necessary to redeploy me at work because I couldn't physically or mentally manage to do my job. *As an aside, I also worked alongside 4 people diagnosed with various chronic conditions who did fine skipping around the office working full time unsupervised yet somehow all qualified for DLA.
To cut a long story short the whole thing was awful & the final decision was to refuse me again. In their opinion my condition has worsened since I applied, so whilst they agree I should get it now, presumably they believe it wasn't bad enough for me to need DLA at the time of the initial application. The result of this being I get nothing whatsoever for the last year, regardless of them thinking at some point during that time my condition has become sufficiently bad enough to qualify. There will be no back pay to the time they think my condition worsened & going forward all I can do is apply for PIPs from now. There is the option to appeal to upper tribunal but right now I feel wrecked & broken & couldn't go through something like that (I'd genuinely rather throw myself off a cliff than endure anything like that again.) Do I want to go through another year of this crap & attempt to get PIPs? Not really, but with a start up business to run & a mortgage & bills to pay I can't afford not to at least try.
So, to anyone in the process of applying for similar benefits I reckon the cynic in me has to suggest you embellish, exaggerate & whine to the maximum, hell, even lie if you need to...because being ill, cut off from the world & prisoner in your own bed just isn't enough to get a few measly quid to help you function!
Those of you going through this (& I know several are), I genuinely hope you have a better experience than I have & that you're treated more fairly & are given what you deserve. I'm sending good luck vibes your way.
*huge hugs from me*