I suffered my brain injury in another country in Dec 1994, 18 long years ago. The instant I returned to the UK I was in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance. My family had the foresight to make all the applications in my name while I was first comatose and then while I were in a haze of confusion.
18 years without worry, without hassle. Partial vision, epilepsy, frequent migraines, appalling short term memory, balance and co-ordination troubles, etc, et bloody cetera, all meant that aside from the occasional confirmation medical I continued to receive the benefits.
And then… The Government decide upon a radical overhaul of the benefits system, perhaps long overdue. It is time for the ‘bad back’ brigade to be wheedled out of the present system. Every claimant of sickness related benefits is apparently required to attend a medical. Absolutely understandable and nothing at all to worry about. I am called in for my own medical at 08.00 on a Saturday morning. Yes, 8am on a weekend.
The medical reaches the frankly dizzying heights of,
‘Lift your arms please’ and ‘lift each leg in turn now please’.
The ‘medical’ culminates with, ‘Now count backwards from 100, in groups of three. 97, 94 and so on’.
And that’s it, all over. No questions about vision. Not one question about short term memory. None about appalling lethargy. Not one enquiry about co-ordination and balance. Epilepsy is glossed over in one sentence.
‘Thank you for coming, goodbye’.
A week later and I receive a letter from said office informing me that I am now,
‘Fit for work’ and that ‘all benefits will cease after your next payment’.
A bolt out of the blue. Call me a cynic, call me angry, call me anything you like really, but as my health hasn’t improved in 18 years and is highly unlikely to do so in the next 18, I assume I am being called a liar, a ‘Benefit cheat’.
I’m not taking it, no way. Almost before I’ve finished reading the letter, I’m calling the ‘Helpline’ on the letterhead. I may as well talk to a brick wall. The decision is made, there is no turning back. I am fit for work and thus, I have been lying to them for 18 years. I AM a benefits cheat. But there is one course for me…
‘Would you like to appeal?’
I reply with a phrase about a bear and crapping in a woods and the appeal is duly lodged.
But it soon occurs to me that the government are ultimately responsible for slurring my name and so I hatched a plan. No, that’s a lie, I simply typed out a long and extremely informative e mail to my MP. Every detail is in that mail and much to my surprise, less than half an hour after pressing ‘send’. My phone rings…
The next day, The VERY NEXT DAY, my local DHSS office calls to tell me that the original decision has been overturned to to an ‘oversight’.
Funny that. An oversight. A brain injury and all it’s associated ailments and traumas are an ‘oversight’.
In short, I am not a benefits cheat and I am certainly no liar. I just wish the authorities would delve a little deeper before they rush to judgement.