Case Studies » Sickness » 2014/14 - Specified Disability: Back Injury
Specified Disability: Back Injury
Background: The appellant, an EU national, is 43 years of age and came to live in Ireland in 2012. He had trained to be a steelworker but economic difficulties meant he had been unable to pursue that career. Instead, he worked as an engine mechanic from 1995 until 2009, when he had surgery on his back. He returned to work but sustained further injury to his back and underwent surgery again in 2011. At that stage, his wife and children were resident in Ireland and his wife was working. As a result of his back injury, and following his second operation, he was paralysed and had to use a wheelchair for some time as he had suffered neurological damage. He applied for Disability Allowance in 2014 and submitted medical evidence. In completing the ability/disability profile, his G.P. indicated that the appellant was affected to a moderate extent in walking and climbing, balance, continence, lifting, bending, sitting and standing. His application was refused on the basis that he was held not to be substantially restricted in undertaking employment. His appealed referred to disc herniation, paralysis and neurological damage.
Oral hearing: The appellant was accompanied by his wife. He advised that, since applying for Disability Allowance, he had been seen by an Orthopaedic Consultant and was awaiting a report from that consultation. He said that he would supply a copy when it was available. He said that he had been referred also to a Consultant Neurologist and that he had been to physiotherapy and was scheduled to have further sessions.
The appellant reported that he had left work in [EU country] as a result of his medical condition. Having suffered paralysis after his second operation, he was required to use a wheel-chair. The nerves from his L5 joint had been crushed by a disc and this had affected function below the waist. He stated that he was doubly incontinent, and in continuous pain for which he had been prescribed medication.
The appellant advised that he had improved gradually for the first two years after his operation and that his condition had remained stable for a period after that. However, he outlined the manner in which his condition had begun to dis-improve: he has numbness in his lower legs and heels; he has experienced a loss of power in his legs; he walks with a crutch, but not far; he needs to move constantly in bed while sleeping and this restricts the amount of sleep he can get, and he can only sit for short periods. The Appeals Officer observed that the appellant had to stand on occasion and walk, using a crutch, during the course of the hearing.
Additional evidence: The Orthopaedic Consultant’s report was submitted.
Comment/Conclusion: The Appeals Officer noted that the appellant’s experience and education had been based around work of a physical nature, with a requirement to be able to lift heavy objects. He referred to the evidence submitted, indicating that he is severely compromised in his ability to undertake work of that nature. He considered that he would need extensive re-training in a carefully selected field in order that he would be able to seek future employment. The Appeals Officer concluded that the appellant was substantially restricted in seeking employment, that he had experienced health issues for a considerable period, and that his condition was unlikely to improve.
Decision of the Appeals Officer: The appeal is allowed.
Decision reason(s): The appellant’s experience and education is based around work of a physical nature with a requirement to be able to lift heavy objects. The evidence submitted indicates that he is severely compromised in his ability to undertake work of that nature. His overall condition would not allow him to undertake work that requires him to stand or sit for lengthy periods. He would need extensive re-training in a carefully selected field that would suit his condition for him to be able to seek future employment. His situation means that he is substantially restricted from seeking employment. He has suffered from his condition for a considerable period and is unlikely to have his condition improve.
Having carefully examined the evidence in this case, including evidence submitted at the oral hearing, and taking account of the medical evidence available, I have concluded that the appellant has established that he meets the qualifying conditions. In the circumstances, the appeal succeeds.