I am due to attend an ESA tribunal on the 5th August and am looking to get some advice as to how best approach this. My background history is as follows; (please excuse the fact that is so long!)
I am 39 years old this month, and was diagnosed with Hodgins Disease in May of 1999. The cancer quickly spread and I had to undergo two years of relentless treatment consisting of radiotherapyto my neck and chest, chemotherapy, high dose chemotherapy further radiotherapy to my groin area and finally a stem cell transplant.
My lungs were badly damaged due to the extensive treatment and I now have pulmonary fibrosis with a lung capacity just below 50 percent.
I also have testicular and thyroid disfunction, i.e hypogonadism and hypothroidsim.
I suffer from fibromyalgia, and get painful muscle spasms and aches, especially when tired. I can do very little before I become fatigued. I have not worked since my diagnoses in 1999.
I have also suffered from depression and isolation as a result and was given counselling and tested for Aspergers Syndrome in 2009 at my own request, as I couldn't even leave the house, staying in probably 28 days out of 30. My life, was to put it mildy, miserable.
At my worst I am completely housebound, socially introverted, faint, weak and depressed.
However in the last couple of years I have taken huge steps towards improving my health. I have completely changed my diet, started an exercise program and have pretty much overcome my depression and social anxiety. I now volunteer for my local health authority where I go in once a week to two local doctor's surgery's to see clients referred to me who wish to know about local health services available to them, and I sign them up if interested. This particular service, called The Lifestyles team helped me personally a few years ago as they put me on a 10 week rehabilitation exercise program at my local surgery that kickstarted my mental and physical recovery.
I am now volunteering and also being able to do a few seminar courses at my local hospital through them to get some training.
Of course ESA then came along and I failed my medical with zero points. I was rather naive and spoke enthusiastically about my recent health improvements and requested that I be put in the WRAG group as I really want help in getting back into part time work. The only examination that was carried out was a peak flow test, which was reported as 'very low' and it was suggested I seek medical attention about this, but I was cleared as fit for work.
On the forms the examiner had listed only Hodgkins Disease and underactive thyroid as my medical conditions, not mentioning my pulmonary fibrosis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
I asked for a reconsideration and explained that she had not correctly listed my illnesses and it was rejected saying that as I had not mentioned these at the examination they could not be submitted for consideration as they were 'new conditions post examination' and could only be part of a new claim. I not only mentioned them at the examination but also had included my details in a written letter which she read prior to my medical. Furthermore a copy of this letter was included in my reconsideration rejection pack that they sent to tell me they were not revising their opinion, so clearly I have proof that they had this information!
Anyway, I appealed to a tribunal, and have got my date of August 5th 2013. I am looking for as much advice on this as possible. My doctor has told me he will write a letter of support for me and agrees with me that I am not well enough to return to full time work, and that I need to be put into the WRAG group, and given help in getting back to work on a part time basis. He has said he will support all of my position fully.
I need to know how to approach the tribunal and what angle to go for? Obviously I will contest the fact that they are not allowing for my pulmonary fibrosis and other conditions to be be considered. I have heard mention of a Section 29, which I think I should use. My doctor will support me in this. Do I have to try and get 15 points somehow as well? I get zero currently and on a healthy day I have no problems with any of the things listed. However I get fatigued and run down very easily, and when ill I am literally bed ridden. I have had pneumonia in each of the last two years, both times being bed ridden for several weeks with my weight going from 10 to just below 9 stone. Had I been working, on both occasions I would have had to take at least 10 weeks off. My immune system is not strong and chest infections are common for me when I am overtired and run down.
Through a meticulous diet, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle I have been able to control my problems and enjoy a decent quality of life, and I do want to try and get help to see if I can do some part time paid work, it's a huge goal of mine and I am hoping to be put into the WRAG group to help me accomplish this.
It would seem to me that I perfectly fit the criteria of someone who has a restricted capacity for work, but for whom some part time work would be possible and desirable, but from what I have read here and elswhere it seems that only goal is to deny benefits to as many people as possible.
I'd really value some advice as to how to approach this tribunal and the steps I should take.
Many thanks in advance.