One of the search terms that brought someone to this blog was “What rate DLA will I be entitled to with COPD?), so I thought I’d try to address the question. Then I realised it was well nigh impossible without sweeping generalisations – ah well… Note: I am not an expert!
First of all, benefit rates:-
Incapacity Benefit (IB) (for as long as it remains!), has a long-term rate, I believe, of £84.50 per week (others rates are lower, short-term, for example, is £63.75), payable weekly, with supplements payable based on previous National Insurance contributions. It’s an earnings-related benefit, despite what the Daily Mail likes to scream, you have to have worked, and then become to ill to continue, to qualify – it’s not free money handed out to all and sundry on demand. The website below clarifies the eligibility situation.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is rather more complex, but the rates are as follows; it’s paid every 4 weeks:-
Lower rate £17.75 per week
Higher Rate £46.75 per week
You need to qualify for the higher rate to be eligible for a Motability vehicle.
Lowest rate £17.75 per week
Middle rate £44.85 per week
Highest rate £67.00 per week
How do these benefits apply to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)? It depend very much on how ill you are. I have COPD and some people get less than me; conversely, some get more, and it’s not unfair to say that it’s a bit of a lottery. A good place to start is this website, which deals with financial support for disabled people. That’s where I got the rates info.
Your IB claim is based on a points system – check out this website for details. You can also download the information as PDF document – see foot of that page.
If you have become unfit for work, then once your Statutory Sick pay runs out, you should transfer to Incapacity Benefit, after completing a form which, to put it bluntly, is a minefield – get help from a benefits expert if you are at all unsure. Officially, there may also be a medical examination – given the current demonisation of IB claimants, I think you can guarantee being summoned for one.
My advice would be to insist on being examined at home – the reasons you give depend on your personal situation – because how you live (how well you cope day-to-day), is central to your disability. Turning up at some hired-by-the-day office, to be confronted by a person who has no idea of who you are, and how well you cope, can be extremely counter-productive (and, of course, you’ve no idea how well qualified the private-enterprise doctor is to assess you – he may be so rubbish he’s unemployable in the real world, or some old, retired, doc working for pocket money; there are many reasons why these people work for DWP contractors, instead of themselves or the NHS, and being the best doctor in the world certainly isn’t one of them!). So, get them on your home turf, and make them see how badly you are affected on a day-to-day basis.
That applies to DLA as well – I had my DLA examination at home in 1986, I never even considered not doing so (I’m affected by several other factors as well, not least the damage done by being struck by lightning in 1983), and it was so rigorous I spent the next three days in bed. Had I driven to a venue for my examination, it’s extremely unlikely I would have been able to drive home again. That’s something you need to bear in mind, as is the fact that you have the right to decline to perform any action that you believe will be harmful to you.
If the IB form is a pain, you won’t like the DLA form – it’s huge. The main problem with DLA is that you can’t apply for a specific component, like mobility, you have to submit a blanket application and wait to see what you get, and how long you get it for. I get the impression that awards “indefinitely”, like mine, are scarce these days, and many people have to reapply every couple of years – this will make it almost impossible to obtain a Motability vehicle (on benefit, it’s pretty much the only way to afford a car, and for many disabilities, a car is essential; I’d be completely housebound without mine, as I can’t use public transport or taxis – long story). You need the higher mobility rate for at least three years to qualify for Motability.
When completing the DLA and IB forms, resist the temptation to flannel – be honest and concise. Always tell the truth – lies will drop you in the mire – but tell the truth that benefits you. For example, you describe how you are on your bad days, NOT on your good days, nor do you expand on that to say, for example “But some days I feel a lot better”. Sounds obvious, but I know people who have done just that, and talked themselves out of benefits. It’s also a bad idea to exaggerate how badly your ability to walk is affected, because they are very likely to take you for a walk – they did with me. At the moment, I’m completing a DLA claim form in the hope of getting the middle care rate, as I really need to employ someone to clean for me, and the “how far can you walk” question is multi-choice for time and distance – so I went out with a stopwatch and timed myself. The result was a lot worse than I thought. So had I guessed, I’d have done myself no favours.
There is a question about how far you can walk without pain. If, like me, you can’t stand without pain, then the answer that goes there is “Zero”. Don’t fanny about with “Oh, on a good day maybe a few yards,” if it’s zero, then say so unequivocally. And the same applies to all the questions.
Going back to IB for a moment, I’ve just had a re-assessment, and the IB50 form is a bad joke, so I suspect the application form may be too (some sources suggest it’s the same form). What I did, then, when I felt the multiple-choice questions just didn’t apply to me, was write “None of the above,” in each case, and submitted my answers to the entire form typed on 12 sheets of A4 paper, suitably keyed to the questions to which the answers referred*. I’ve done this several times, as it allows me to give a fuller picture than ticking boxes does, and as long as your name and national insurance number is at the top of every sheet, there won’t be a problem. I’d also advise signing and dating the final sheet. Doing this is also a god idea if, as in my case, writing is painful and, consequently, illegible – if they can’t read it, you could lose money. Why this form isn’t available as a download, like the DLA form, I’ll never know.
* Just one example of the stupid, inappropriate, questions was “Can you tie a bow in a piece of string?” Why would I want to? My answer said that this was irrelevant, but I can’t tie my shoe-laces so that they’ll stay tied, which in the real world is far more important than tying bows in bits of string!
Obviously, for anyone with COPD (or any other illness supported by substantial medication), how well you are will depend on how assiduous you are with your meds. You may think that, on the day of your medical assessment (if you have one), that it may be a good idea to omit or reduce some, or all, of your meds – I couldn’t possibly comment!
And that’s pretty much it, without getting deeply into each benefit, which has been done elsewhere online, though I can’t find any advice specifically regarding claiming DLA with COPD, so my advice would be to get yourself a claim pack and give it your best shot. You’re almost certain to get something.