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Too ill to work, too "well" to claim benefits?
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# 1
lifeisstrange
Old 04-10-2010, 5:35 PM
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Default Too ill to work, too "well" to claim benefits?

Hi all,

I have a conundrum. I haven't been able to work full-time for a couple of years, since I was signed off work with severe chest pains apparently sparked by a series of extremely stressful events (deaths, a family feud, caring for a very disabled relative, suicidal girlfriend, noisy neighbours on top). I was told at the time it was anxiety and was given anti-depressants, which didn't do any good. Since then I've been working part-time but now I find it difficult even to manage that because I don't know how I'll feel one day to the next, and I have a zero hours contract so I only get paid for the work I do.

I've seen 3 or 4 GPs about this and they've all given different diagnoses - "anxiety" even though there's not much correlation with stress, "costochondritis" which is a perfect description of the severity of the symptoms - "often mistaken for heart attacks" apparently - but is only supposed to last weeks at most. Today my new diagnosis is "musculo-skeletal", for which the GP said "take ibuprofen" (I do anyway).

My symptoms are chest pains, sometimes sudden and severe lasting seconds, otherwise dull and lasting hours, sometimes going down my left arm. I get a sensation of tightness and find it more difficult to breathe. Nothing seems to help. I've had an ECG and was clear.

I'm not fishing for a diagnosis (unless there's any psychic doctors passing through) - what I'm annoyed about is that I have a debilitating illness that massively limits what I can do, but doctors can't agree on a diagnosis, and none of the ones I've had have been taken seriously by my employers. I've found I'm a liability as far as HR departments are concerned - have x sick days in a year and get put on a warning, regardless of whether or not you're genuinely ill. So I wouldn't be able to hold down a full-time job for long even if I was physically able to do one, and I have enough trouble as a part-timer.

Benefits don't look like an alternative. I've helped my girlfriend fill out ESA forms, and helped my mum fill out DLA forms, and I'd be amazed if I qualified for either. I don't need help doing 'x' for 'y' times every day and I can walk 'x' distance without needing to rest. I just don't do these things a lot of the time because I don't feel well enough, and correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think the forms let you say that. It's like the forms are deliberately designed to miss the point. So to sum up I feel in a situation where I'm "too ill to work and too well to claim benefits". Has anyone else been in a similar situation and made a successful claim?

Thanks for reading.
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# 2
dmg24
Old 04-10-2010, 5:39 PM
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I would focus on getting a diagnosis and treatment rather than claiming benefits - have you been referred to a specialist?
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# 3
Hammyman
Old 04-10-2010, 5:42 PM
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DLA isn't awarded just because you're ill. DLA is awarded depending on mobility needs and if you need care and they've obviously decided that you don't get it. People with angina don't automatically qualify either.

Not sure of how old you are but you may qualify for the disability element of working tax credit even if there's no final diagnosis.

What do the ESA people say?
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# 4
themull1
Old 04-10-2010, 5:44 PM
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Or maybe a psychiatrist?
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# 5
welshmoneylover
Old 04-10-2010, 5:47 PM
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Have you considered aromatherapy or homeopathy? Both are considered useful in the treatment for anxiety.
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# 6
lifeisstrange
Old 04-10-2010, 6:01 PM
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Hi all - thanks for your comments. I wasn't clear enough - at first it was caused by stress but now, I still get these symptoms, and it's not related to anxiety or stress that I'm aware of.

No doctor has been interested in referring me to specialists (or psychiatrists, I hasten to add) because they think the diagnoses are enough, even though they've contradicted each other and I don't have anxiety, I have a physical problem. So while I'd like to see a specialist to explain why I'm ill, as doctors don't want me to go down that route I'm left wondering about benefits, and whether it's even worth applying because (like Hammyman says) you don't get it just because you're ill. I've looked at the forms and the points system for ESA and I could practically guarantee I wouldn't qualify for that either - hence the frustration.
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# 7
Oldernotwiser
Old 04-10-2010, 6:06 PM
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Does the Neurofen help the chest pains?
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# 8
lifeisstrange
Old 04-10-2010, 6:11 PM
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Fraid not - I can't say I notice a difference.
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# 9
merlin68
Old 04-10-2010, 6:20 PM
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I was diagnosed with anxiety and costochondritis, then they discovered that i had copd. If you smoke it's worth getting a simple spirometry test done at your gp's. My symptoms were the same as yours.
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# 10
dmg24
Old 04-10-2010, 6:20 PM
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I would agree with welshmoneylover, perhaps it would be worth looking at alternative therapies? I would pursue the specialist referral (and a psychiatrist is a specialist!), and if the GP is not willing I would speak to the practice manager, or even PALS if you still get no joy.
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# 11
lifeisstrange
Old 04-10-2010, 6:30 PM
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merlin68, good to know you got a proper diagnosis after being fobbed off with the same labels. I don't smoke, but thanks. Hope you're doing ok.

dmg24 and welshmoneylover, thanks for the suggestions, but as I think it's safe to say it's not anxiety I don't think it'd achieve anything (except costing more money I haven't got!). Probably would've done me good a couple of years ago, but not now. And yes, taking it to PALS or the practice manager might be a good idea. Incidentally, I hear the GP who gave me my new "diagnosis" today is going to be investigated for negligence leading to my neighbour's death...

Last edited by lifeisstrange; 04-10-2010 at 6:33 PM.
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# 12
ellie43
Old 04-10-2010, 6:37 PM
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Fluctuating conditions pose a real difficulty and I can sympathise with your dilemma. You really do need a firm diagnosis before you can move forward. (It took me 4 years to get a diagnosis and I know how awful it is when you know you are ill, but don't have a 'label' for the symptoms). It sounds as if the GP's are floundering. You need a thorough workup to find out what is wrong. Then you can explore treatment options. A very quick search for chest pain has come up with the following: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/sym/ch...age=4&total=44
have all these possibilities been explored?

I only got my diagnosis because I researched my symptoms, worked out a possible diagnosis, and asked my GP to refer me to the relevant specialist.

Another place where you may find some useful information is the Benefits and Work website. http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/

They have a forum where you could also post and see what response you get, they also have excellent DLA and ESA etc guides (although you do have to pay for them) but they also have some free guides.

One of the things that comes out of the Benefits and Work guides is that the questions that are asked on the claim form don't always reflect the information that is needed for a fair decision to be made. Your local welfare rights group and/or CAB should have a copy of the guides that you can access and you will see what I mean.

It is important that you are often unable to undertake day to day tasks because you don't feel well enough. Your illness is clearly having a significant impact on your life. You need to think about how often you are too poorly to undertake certain activities, the severity and duration of your symptoms. Keeping a diary may prove useful. It may also help you to identify and precipitating or aggravating factors.
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# 13
lifeisstrange
Old 04-10-2010, 7:01 PM
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ellie43, brilliant! Barely anything on that list has been mentioned. Each GP I saw seemed to feel that their initial reaction was right, made a diagnosis and stuck to it. I'll take your suggestions on board and ask yet another GP for another opinion and referral to a specialist. Then I'll think again about benefits.

I'm glad you got there in the end.
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# 14
scooby088
Old 04-10-2010, 7:10 PM
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Sounds like to me you have GAD or generalised anxiety disorder, my OH has it and the symptoms you describe are for GAD. It doesn't matter keep pushing to get diagnosed as some people think that GAD is people swinging the lead. This illness can be very debilitating and can make you a recluse. But i am only speaking from personal experience, i maybe wrong.

Last edited by scooby088; 04-10-2010 at 7:45 PM. Reason: because i can
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# 15
Indie Kid
Old 04-10-2010, 7:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ellie43 View Post
Fluctuating conditions pose a real difficulty and I can sympathise with your dilemma. You really do need a firm diagnosis before you can move forward. (It took me 4 years to get a diagnosis and I know how awful it is when you know you are ill, but don't have a 'label' for the symptoms). It sounds as if the GP's are floundering. You need a thorough workup to find out what is wrong. Then you can explore treatment options. A very quick search for chest pain has come up with the following: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/sym/ch...age=4&total=44
have all these possibilities been explored?

I only got my diagnosis because I researched my symptoms, worked out a possible diagnosis, and asked my GP to refer me to the relevant specialist.
I don't recommend this. By searching that website, you're scaring yourself with all kinds of possible diagnoses. Many conditions have symptoms which overlap.

You don't need a diagnosis to claim benefits - I was never given a concrete diagnosis for what can only be described a neck injury. I reapplied for DLA last month. 2 weeks ago, I was given a diagnosis and subsequent treatment. (or will be - have to wait for tests before I can be treated)
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# 16
ellie43
Old 04-10-2010, 7:47 PM
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Sorry sh1305 but I don't agree. Until you get a diagnosis you can't explore possible treatment. It could be that there is a treatment for the OP which could totally transform his life. In a perfect world GP's would explore all possible diagnosis without scaring the patient, but in reality the patient often has to be proactive to move things forward.

In my experience having a diagnosis helped enormously in dealing with my (previous) employer, claiming benefits and with my insurer. I was eventually diagnosed as seriously affected by a neurological illness, but it was such a relief, after years of becoming increasingly ill without knowing why. I also discovered that one of the 'treatments' I was prescribed prior to my diagnosis actually made my condition worse (although the clinician dismissed my comments to this effect at the time)

In addition a diagnosis will help any future employer of the OP to make the 'reasonable adjustments' required under the DDA.
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# 17
Indie Kid
Old 04-10-2010, 8:01 PM
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You don't need a diagnosis to be classed as disabled under DDA.
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# 18
ellie43
Old 04-10-2010, 8:19 PM
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My point is that although you may not 'need' a diagnosis to claim benefits, deal effectively with employers or to ask for reasonable adjustments under the DDA, having a diagnosis makes things a great deal easier. Having a diagnosis also makes it easier to obtain medical evidence from a consultant in support of the above.

If you are living with a chronic illness, that affects life in the way that the OP describes, then anything that makes it easier to cope is to worth pursing.
'Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name'
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Eleventh Heaven = no 166 - none yet but 50 weeks to go

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