From the Spalding and South Holland Voice, 22 December 2016.
An invalided RAF veteran left fearing how he would keep a roof over his head after his benefits were cut has been told they are to be reinstated – and increased.
ME sufferer John McGeorge-Oanta (51), who told his story in The Voice at the beginning of this month, has faced seven weeks of worry and been plunged into the worse period of ill health he has faced in years as he prepared to battle the decision at tribunal.
Then, this week the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) contacted him to say his case has been reviewed again and he has been awarded Personal Independence Payment (PIP), backdated, at a rate of £76 per week.
On November 2 it had ruled John had a zero rating score for PIP and subsequently his disability living allowance care component of £55 per week was withdrawn, leading also to the removal of his wife Tica’s carers allowance and the couple’s Housing Benefit.
John, of Swift Gardens, Spalding, said: “We have a welfare system in this country to enable people to live as productive a life as they can. For many people with ME it is not possible for us to work and this welfare is something we can’t do without.
“I’m grateful to the country for providing that. I just despair knowing others in my condition and worse are suffering because of this mandate the Government has to carry out these desperate ‘get-money-back’ measures on the vulnerable.
“It’s impossible to balance your books when you make spurious decisions like they do.
“Obviously they were concerned when the tribunal came around they would have to pay for that.
“Unfortunately this is what is going to happen to so many people unless we have a change of law – I would like to see these decisions taken out of the DWP’s hands until they go to tribunal.
“It was a terribly difficult situation – losing so much money was a terrible burden. People say ‘and just before Christmas,’ but such things are not really relevant, it is difficult to lose that at any time of year.
“It just highlights the nonsense in the way they are making these decisions.
“It is shameful that the people suffering are the most vulnerable.”
The Royal British Legion, which was supporting John to prepare for the tribunal, had told John it felt he had a claim for a higher level of support – but John says he is content to have the money he needs to pay his rent and survive.
John was invalided from the RAF after almost 20 years service, including in Sierra Leone, following his diagnosis with ME.
The complex and fluctuating condition, in his case, means he regularly collapses and becomes unresponsive as well as suffering constant muscle and joint pain.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Decisions for Personal Independence Payments are made after considering all the information provided by the claimant, including any supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist, and anyone who disagrees with a PIP decision can appeal.
“If an appeal is made and new evidence comes to light during the process then the decision can be changed before the appeal is heard.”