Living with PTSD

 


 

Help with the ESA Assessment on incapacity to work

 

You may receive a letter from 'Jobcentreplus' saying that you're going to be assessed for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Read the whole of this page before doing anything.

Follow these instructions:

1. Do NOT fill in the form by yourself. Get someone to help you. Particularly if you find the way that the questions are phrased misleading. It's not in plain english and if you have a mental health condition and are on medication it can be difficult to understand. I had problems with it!

2. Go to this website and read the information carefully: http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/work-capability-assessment.

3. Get up to date medical evidence from EVERYONE that has anything to do with your disability (eg GP, specialist, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, OTs, Social Workers, welfare officers etc). Get statements from friends and family members and anyone else that provides any care for you. Get a full body of existing evidence as well to show the consistency in terms of how your disability affects you.

4. Keep photocopies of ALL of the documents that you collate.

5. Write up a list of all of your symptoms. The chances are that you will find this part of the procedure uncomfortable, and painful and it may worsen your symptoms because of the additional anxiety that you may be experiencing right now. Please ask a friend to help you. Also write down in detail any support that is provided to you either by the system (eg GP, psychiatrist, social worker etc), organisations (eg Combat Stress) or friends and family.

6. Now that you have all of the information, contact the Veterans Welfare Service, A Citizens' Advice Bureau or a Welfare Rights Unit within your local council and request the help of one of their officers to complete the form, collate all the information that you have gathered and to write a supporting letter for your case.

7. You may have to attend a medical assessment - do not go alone!
Take a friend with you. Make sure the friend or support worker is making notes of their questions and your answers. I have been to many of these medicals as a welfare rights worker and have witnessed lies being told on reports and inaccuracies being documented. Do not be afraid to challenge them if they act unprofessionally or get something wrong. Get them to repeat what they have written about you to your face - insist on this!

I would also insist that if they're assessing you for PTSD that you are assessed by a psychiatrist that is qualified to carry out an accurate assessment. This should be done before the assessment is booked.

If the report is unfavourable, you should argue that the reports submitted by your GP, psychiatrist and support staff carries more weight than a 20 minute interview with an ATOS doctor when considering the complications of your condition.

8. If the final decision is that you're fit for work and you feel that you aren't - you must seek the help of the Veterans Welfare Service, A Citizens' Advice Bureau or a Welfare Rights Unit straight away and they will help you find a representative to help you appeal.

 

How to Contact the Welfare Service

The SPVA Veterans Welfare Service has five Welfare Centres, providing advice and support across the UK .  

The contact details for each office are:

Norcross (based near Blackpool )
Tel 01253 333494
Email spva-vwsnorcross@mod.uk

Kidderminster (based in Worcester )
Tel 01562 825527
Email spva-vwskidderminster@mod.uk

Centurion (based in Gosport )
Tel 02392 702232
Email spva-vwscenturionmailbox@mod.uk

Imjin (based in Gloucester )
Tel 01452 510825
Email VWS-innsworth@spva.mod.uk

Glasgow
Tel 0141 2242709
Email spva-vwsglasgowmailbox@mod.uk

 

To fnd a local Welfare Rights Unit - contact your local authority.

If you are supporting a veteran and need further advice, it might be worth contacting the Welfare Service to see if they will help too. To locate your nearest Veterans Welfare Centre call their free helpline 0800 169 2277.

If you are a civillian, please follow the same steps but seek assistance from your nearest Citizen's Advice Bureau, City Welfare Rights Office or Law Centre. If you have limited funds, please ensure that you ask about costs of the service in case it is funded by Legal Aid.

NB Irrespective of which disability benefit you are getting, always follow the other guidelines above re help, support and process. Never go through it alone and never be afraid to challenge and/or complain about an ATOS doctor that has acted unfairly, unprofessionally or completed an inaccurate report about your condition. You should complain to the department doing your benefit assessment and to the ATOS complaints team (but with the support of the agencies listed above).

There is no clear information on the internet about how to start the ATOS complaints procedure, the only thing that I have found is an email address. Get support re your complaint and make sure someone writes it for you and make the fact that someone has written it for you clear in the email. Ideally it should be the person that you took to the medical with you. Their email address is: customer-relations@atoshealthcare.com.

Always send all correspondance and forms by 'Recorded Delivery'.

If you're worried about how the changes in Housing Benefit or the 'Benefits Cap' will affect you from April 2013 onwards, please click here to find out more about them.

I hope this helps you.