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Old 14-08-10, 11:01
Emz Emz is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 66
Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

I recently applied for ESA as my doctor said I was unable to work. I started recieving it and then had a medical.

I went along to the medical and explained this was the first time I'd left the house in months and answered all his questions about what I can't do. I recently also got another sick note from the doctor signing me off for 8 weeks again.

I've just got a letter today after the medical saying that I scored 0 points and am not entitled to ESA. Its craziness. One of the questions is "you don't usually feel very anxious or scared about meeting new people or going to places that you have been before" which is completely untrue and I told him so. Another one is "you are able to get to a familier place without someone's help" which is also untrue. In fact all of them say I can do things that I can't and it feels like they've not even looked at the medical or questionair that I have done.

They've stopped my money now and I've got no idea what to do. This form reads like its about someone else. Any help please people? I've got no money coming in now :(
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Old 14-08-10, 11:15
Emz Emz is offline
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Posts: 66
Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

I just did the limited capability for work test online and it gives me 75 points which is considerably over the amount needed.
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Old 14-08-10, 11:59
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mumble mumble is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 211
Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

Certainly take it up with them. I was told I am not eligible for it as my fiance is getting a student loan, however after they came here and did a medical - I appealed and they reassessed and allocated me some money.
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Old 14-08-10, 14:29
Emz Emz is offline
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Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

i've written my appeal letter but I'm just so worried they're going to leave me without money for months :( I'm panicking so much.
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Old 14-08-10, 16:39
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mumble mumble is offline
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Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

Also speak to Citizens Advice.
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Old 19-08-10, 01:28
eight days a week eight days a week is offline
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Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

Originally Posted by Emz View Post
i've written my appeal letter but I'm just so worried they're going to leave me without money for months :( I'm panicking so much.
<edited on 5th September 2011, because the criteria and scoring system have changed since I wrote this, and I don't have the up-to-date list of the scoring criteria. Also please bare in mind during the whole post that it was written a year ago so the system might not have changed completely, but I'm sure some of it has>

Hi Emz,

I have experience here, and also a little bit of inside information. The first is from a friend who works at the CAB and for a long time now they've been giving A LOT of people who're perfectly entitled to the benefit (you need over 15 points to qualify<edit - not sure about this now under the new criteria>) ZERO on assessment, so you are most definitely not alone

The first thing I'm puzzled about is that they've stopped your money. In my experience when you have told them of your intention to appeal the decision they must continue to pay you until the decision is made. If they ultimately find you aren't entitled the back-pay is simply changed to JSA. Have you not told them yet? If not I suggest ringing them ASAP and telling them. And get that appeal letter off ASAP too, I believe they need it within a certain time-frame.

I too wrote an extremely detailed letter of appeal, but no matter what you write I believe they will turn it down unless you have extra supporting medical evidence to back-up your claim. That said I think it's certainly a good idea to write your full letter, just, as I said, get it to them within the time they've asked for it! If there's any problem that causes a delay just let them know.

Sick notes from the doctor are necessary for the benefit but don't assist whatsoever in actually being judged entitled to it.

Another piece of insider info is that the assessment doctors are glorified pen pushers. If they were any good at healthcare why wouldn't they be out there helping people??!! In my opinion they are inept.

More importantly, my insider (who I'll get to in a bit) knows the system inside out and says that these 'doctors' know and understand little to nothing whatsoever about mental health issues.

Assuming you don't provide additional medical evidence, whatever you put in your appeal letter I believe you will then have the option go to an independent tribunal - do so!! There will be a doctor there who will ask you similar questions to the medical, but he or she will be much more experienced. The tribunal will also have seen hundreds if not thousands of cases like yours, and know that people are being given zero points when they are perfectly entitled to this benefit. I read on BBC news (I think) that 40% of tribunal decisions are found in favour of people like us - i.e. against the medical assessment!

Because I did not provide any extra medical evidence at the appeal stage - only my vehement and extremely detailed letter - I had to go to tribunal. If you want any more information about that stage, if it gets that far, then please send me a private message and I will reply on this thread. There are so many posts here and threads that just in one night's posting (tonight) I have lost which threads I've posted in and need to follow. But I want to help here

Going to tribunal took more than six months (they have such a backlog of cases, because they are turning everybody down!) In the meantime they continued to pay me.

Regarding medical evidence. Are you under an NHS psychiatrist for your condition? This is how I got my medical evidence. Through my psychiatrist's practice, by explaining what I needed, I was put in touch with the benefits adviser. (He's my 'insider' - he deals with these situations all the time.) He went through the official checklist with me, and then spoke to my psychiatrist who agreed that I was entitled to the benefit. The advisor drew up the letter of medical evidence from my psychiatrist (being an expert in the system, while she is not) and she signed it. They gave me 30 points but arguably they could have given me more, and they felt that was enough - but firm medical evidence like that is irrefutable by the tribunal or (of course) even the appeals section.

It may be too late to arrange this evidence for the appeals stage - do not worry! You will have many months until the tribunal to get this in place

If there is no benefits adviser (I cannot believe there wouldn't be) then approach your psychiatrist directly.

If you are not under the psychiatrist yet then push your GP - you should be!!

If you don't get that far (or want to get that far, but if you're applying for ESA you should probably be under an expert) then your GP needs to provide the evidence himself!!

I believe that any medical evidence from people who know your situation and are treating you directly, and who say that you are unfit to work and entitled to ESA under the criteria will get you a positive result

There is much more I could write, but this is long enough, so just a few more points!!

- Many people won't have seen the exact list of criteria they judge the points from. This is not the questionnaire. This is probably not something they will have given you or shown you. I have a copy, I will send you a copy if you want. The letter from my psychiatrist started something like 'I am aware of the points system used to evaluate ESA and my patient scores as follows'. If you cannot get as far as an adviser or a psychiatrist it's your GP's job to look at this and provide the medical evidence on your behalf.

- That said, I think you should be under the psychiatrist in the condition you're in - you deserve to be, and it will support your claim even more strongly. Insist to your GP to refer you!

- For goodness sakes, in future if you haven't felt able to leave the house for months, don't do so for a medical!!! You have to remember that there are a lot of liars and cheats out there. You said at the medical it was your first time out of home for months, but how was he or she to know that? And they will take every opportunity they can to mark you down on your points. They will come to your home if you explain the situation. I had a home visit even though I was able to drive to a support group every day 10 miles away, because I (rightly) told them that I was only able to make that trip because I knew I was going to a completely supportive environment that I knew well. I believe the home visit's why I was given 6 points at the medical rather than the typical 0. Well, that's done now for you, but if you get to the tribunal stage they will support your travel expenses. I phoned up and explained that I was unable to use public transport to get there and would require a taxi, which they agreed to pay for. At the tribunal they asked how I was able to make it there if I was almost totally homebound at the time (which is a very fair question - thankfully I am much better now). I explained that I had almost had to ask the taxi to turn around at some points to take me home. I had also written to the tribunal in advance to explain that there was a good chance I might not be able to make it, submitting my main points in writing and asking them to consider those if I was absent, and also requesting the chance to speak to them by phone if I couldn't attend.

- All of this supported my case I'm certain, but as my adviser said afterwards 'you had firm medical evidence, that was all you needed, if they hadn't accepted that I would've given them hell to pay' and I believe this is true - the medical evidence is all you need. However mine (30 points) did beg the questions 'how were you able to come here?' etc and all of these I was able to answer with cast-iron supporting evidence.

- With the taxi and all the other steps I took, I took a lot of the pressure off myself for the tribunal. Please, please do the same. It would have been even better if I'd been accompanied (for my condition, which is after all what I was there about!)

I'm sorry I've written a lot, I hope it helps. Please do get in touch by private message if I can help more. Having been through this awful system myself I know how depressing it is, which is why I've spent so long tonight trying to help. Even though I beat myself up and my anxiety spiralled out of control over this, looking back, once I had the medical evidence I was home and dry. They're threatening me with a medical again and I spoke to my adviser and he will prepare a new letter from my psychiatrist to have with me then, so it shouldn't (hopefully!) get as far as me even having to appeal next time And, even though I'm much better than I was and able to get out locally most days I'm still not up to travelling to a new and strange place for a stressful medical with some incompetent baboon, so they will have to visit me at home again.

Please let me know how you get on?

All the best


(saving now as my computer keeps crashing - will continue writing and editing in a bit)

Last edited by eight days a week; 05-09-11 at 17:37.
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Old 19-08-10, 08:40
Emz Emz is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 66
Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

Thank you so so so much for all that information. It is very very helpful. I'm not under a psychiatrist yet, supposedly I have to wait for healthy minds to contact me then I have to be under them for however long and then they will refer me if neccesery. I wish I could get more help from the doctor but they'll only give me propranolol and anti depressents and send me on my way.

I will be sending you a PM when I've had time to take in the information. I've got my appeal letter off yesterday which is quite indepth and I will get my GP to write a letter if I can. Hopefully by the time the tribunal comes I will be have some other professionals involved as well. One can only hope.
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Old 26-11-11, 22:00
MsBelle MsBelle is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 10
Re: Panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression and ESA.

This thread has made me feel a little better.

In a nutshell (a shell I don't want to wear, but am lumbered with nonetheless)..I have panic attacks, bad insomnia, anxiety, depression and was agoraphobic for years.

I got the "nil points" Work Capability Assessment letter this morning and to say it upset me would be an understatement. I'm a worrier and my mind is already imagining bills left unpaid, Housing Benefit going into the red, threats of eviction from my landlord (they only allow 2 months' arrears before they start eviction procedures).

Also the contradictory nature of the Assessment hurts and upsets me. This happened the last time; some things I said "Yes" to are marked "No" and vice versa. Luckily I sent a very detailed letter as part of my Appeal, over a year ago, and I passed. I get the feeling the medical criteria required to move from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance is tougher; but I'm not sure.

Part of me wonders whether ATOS has a vested interest in giving people "0 points" or whether they put these contrary answers because they don't *believe* you?

It also angers me. I know how bad I am when I am deeply depressed. My last suicidal phase I try not to think about. I don't eat, wash, go out (barely venture out anyway), I cry a lot and dream of death; nothing holds my attention for long. Days turn into weeks into..Well, you can see what could happen if a depressive got the letter that says "You have a month to Appeal this Work Capability Assessment decision, otherwise we may not be able to help you."

Part of me wonders if some mentally ill people harm themselves after receiving such a letter; depending on their mood and circumstance that day, it could well be the last straw.

I understand the government has to weed out those they feel are milking the system, but the balance seems entirely off here. ATOS peddling lies is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg, I suspect.

I will challenge this decision. I am thankful I at least have some of my wits about me to do so. God help those who are self-destructive, lost in a depressive haze and don't care; maybe they can't Appeal because their illness affects them so badly.

PS: Just as an example of how flawed the medical assessments can be: My younger sister is in her mid-30s and has had a double hip replacement (avascular necrosis of the hips) and got turned down for ESA and DLA! Unlike me, she didn't bother appealing; she reckoned it was too stressful (she's lucky she has a partner; I don't, not that I'm implying either situation is ideal). The DSS were trying to pester her to come in for an interview days before her operation and she could barely stand up.

---------- Post added at 21:43 ---------- Previous post was at 21:28 ----------

A few years ago, for my first Appeal (Incapacity Benefit), I had to go to a Tribunal. Believe me, for an agoraphobic who hates enclosed spaces and fluorescent lights beating down, feeling self-conscious, embarrassed at having to relate my sorry history and having three people at a table staring back, it was terrifying. I could barely speak.

I had a Welfare Rights officer with me but she hardly said a word. However, she gave good advice before the Appeal Tribunal. Having my sister there was a million times' better support, though other people's experience may be different. It turns out you don't need a Welfare Rights representative there with you.

I find the whole thing an absolutely humiliating ordeal, and have frequently burst into tears at these Assessments, but there's nothing else we can do!

---------- Post added at 22:00 ---------- Previous post was at 21:43 ----------

Re the points system, eightdaysaweek, you say, "Many people won't have seen the exact list of criteria they judge the points from. This is not the questionnaire. This is probably not something they will have given you or shown you. I have a copy, I will send you a copy if you want" is this different to the "Mental, Cognitive And Intellectual Functions" section of the WCA?

I see they require 15 points as I am physically "able" but even getting full marks on the mental health section wouldn't give me anywhere near 15 (assuming each is a 1).

It's making me wonder if I have any hope of getting a positive outcome after an Appeal. *Confused* Though from your footnote it appears that the points system/descriptors may have changed since last year.

For anyone interested, the list of revised limited capability for work descriptors are at the end of this document: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/pdf/e...tions-2011.pdf

Last edited by MsBelle; 27-11-11 at 02:21.
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agoraphobia, depression, disorder, esa, panic

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