Fresh concerns have been raised over whether vulnerable people are being wrongly blocked from receiving disability allowance, after one person spent 18 months fighting for his initial rejection to be overturned.
Documents provided to the Irish Examiner show the now 55-year-old Munster man, who has asked to remain anonymous, suffered a work accident in 2008.
This led to an underlying condition worsening to the point where the man was not able to continue in his job.
On Oct 6, 2008, a Department of Social Protection medical assessment said he was entitled to a disablement benefit of €65.70 per week, which ran out in Mar 2011, because he had suffered a “30% net loss” of his faculties.
The decision entitled the man to apply for disability allowance from Jan 2011. However, on Aug 8, 2011, he was told he was not entitled to the state support due to a prior medical assessment.
The man appealed the decision, but was again told on Jan 16, 2012, that his application had been refused.
The man requested his medical assessment file under the Freedom of Information Act to clarify whether the department’s decision was due to medical reasons as stated.
After finding this was not the case, the man sought an independent review of his case by another section of the department, which is permitted under the second appeals process.
An oral hearing took place on May 3, and his disability allowance claim was finally allowed on May 21.
The vital support payment came into effect last month — a full 18 months after the man’s initial application for State help.
Speaking to this newspaper, the man said the chief appeals officer overseeing the final review apologised to him for the delays and said the issue should not have taken so long to resolve.
While the man said he understood the suggested need for a crackdown on illegitimate claims, said he believes genuine applicants are being caught in the cross-fire.
Pointing to a Dec 7, 2011, phone call he made to discuss his case with a department official, when phone records show he was left on hold for one hour and 16 minutes, he said: “If a person has mental [health] difficulties, they could be easily frustrated from pursuing their lawful entitlements.
“It is my belief this is policy-driven and the most vulnerable in society are made to suffer.”
The Department of Social Protection was yesterday asked for a 2006 to the first half of 2012 yearly breakdown of the number of disability allowance rejections which were successfully appealed.
It was also asked to clarify the average length of time both successful and unsuccessful appeals and further independent reviews take to process.
However, the department was not able to provide this information to the Irish Examiner at the time of going to press.
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