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Case Studies » Sickness » Invalidity Pension- Case from 2016 Annual Report (ref: 2016/13)

2016/13 Invalidity Pension

Oral hearing

Question at issue: Eligibility (medical)

Background: The appellant, in his early 40s, had been employed as a stonemason and sustained injury arising from an occupational accident in 2013. He was awarded Injury Benefit initially and then received Illness Benefit until his entitlement under the scheme (payment for two years) ceased. Subsequently, he had been in receipt of a basic income payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme until he received a compensation award in the order of €150,000 and was held to have means in excess of the statutory limit and that claim was terminated. He made a claim for Invalidity Pension which was rejected on grounds that he was not permanently incapable of work, as provided for in in Article 76(1)(a) of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 142 of 2007). In his appeal, he submitted that he was able to do only light work, on medical advice, and stated that his employer would not accommodate his request in this regard.

Oral hearing: The appellant reported the manner in which he had sustained his neck injury, lifting granite in the course of his work. He said that it was a small business and no cranes or supports were available; employees were required to do heavy lifting. He made the point that he cannot return to that type of work following his injury. He described the advice he has been given about back and neck care and the need to exercise caution in relation to everyday activities and standard types of lifting. He advised that he had approached his employer about doing light work, and he spoke of his expertise in working with granite and the possibilities for overseeing machines that measure/prepare slabs for kitchen worktops. He said that his employer was not prepared to retain his services on that basis.

The appellant advised that he had made a good recovery, notwithstanding the need for vigilance in relation to back care. He reported a residual problem with numbness of two of his fingers. He advised that he holds a Category B driving licence and that he was hoping to become a bus or truck driver and had started studying for the written test. He said that he hoped subsequently to start taking driving lessons but expressed concern as to the costs involved. He said that SOLAS (An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh Agus Scileanna or Further Education and Training Authority) provides assistance with the cost of training only where a person is in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment.

The appellant asked if the Appeals Officer could appreciate the problem he faces: in employment terms, he is young, he is an expert at work he can no longer do, he cannot take on work that might aggravate his injury and he needs to retrain but because he is not in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment he will have to fund that training himself. He went on to express concern about securing an income in the meantime.

Consideration: The Appeals Officer acknowledged the dilemma which the appellant had outlined, in terms of his age, experience and skill, and the difficulties he faced in trying to secure training for new employment as he was not in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance. For purposes of his claim to Invalidity Pension, however, she noted that he was required to establish that immediately before the date of claim he had been continuously incapable of work for a period of one year and was likely to continue to be incapable of work for at least a further year. She noted that in completing the ability/disability profile, his G.P. considered that the appellant’s condition affected his ability to a mild degree in the areas of reaching, manual dexterity and lifting/carrying, and that all other categories were assessed as normal. She noted also that the appellant had been attending a consultant neurosurgeon who indicated that there had been a good resolution of his symptoms and that he would not expect him to be left with any long-term complications as a consequence of the accident in 2013. The Appeals Officer considered that the appellant’s account, as outlined at oral hearing, was consistent with the medical evidence provided and she concluded that it had not been established that he could be deemed to meet the definition of ‘permanently incapable of work’, as provided for in the governing legislation.

Outcome: Appeal disallowed.