Invalidity Pension appeal process ‘stressful and humiliating’

‘I felt like I was stripped bare having to tell them all my problems again. You feel humiliated’

Christy Nolan (63), from Blakestown in Dublin, felt like he was being "stripped bare" and "humiliated" when he had to appeal against the refusal to grant him an invalidity pension.

In 2009 his GP deemed him unable to work after Mr Nolan suffered two heart attacks. He was suffering from tremors as a result of stress and had had a quadruple heart bypass.

He was also suffering ongoing stress after his two sons, both aged in their 20s, were killed in separate incidents – one in a road traffic accident in 2000 and the other in a fire in Australia in 2005 – and his son-in-law was shot dead in 2009 after going to the aid of a neighbour during a row about money.

"I had been working putting up shop signs, a very physical job. I went to my doctor for a check-up in 2008 and the doctor doing the angiogram said I had a heart like a head of cabbage. He said I needed four heart bypasses. So they did the procedure. One of my lungs collapsed during the surgery, but they put that right. I couldn't go back to work, though. I couldn't do a desk job either because my hands shake too much."

Mobility problems


He applied (and was approved) for the disability allowance, which is €188 a week. His doctor, however, encouraged him to apply to the Department of Social Protection for the invalidity pension. At €193.50, it is worth a little more than the disability benefit and, importantly,

is a permanent entitlement once approved – whereas his entitlement to disability benefit would be under regular review. “So I applied for the invalidity pension around September 2010.”

In his application he outlined his medical history, told of his mobility problems – he is out of breath after walking 50 paces and has a bad knee – his risk of another heart attack and his tremors. “It took about three months for a reply to come back and they just said I had been refused. They don’t give any explanation. I couldn’t understand it at all. I was totally shocked. I had given them letters from my doctors saying I was unsuitable to go back to work. ”

He went to his local Independent TD, Patrick Nulty, who advised him to appeal. "He said he couldn't understand why I'd been refused either. He looked at everything and said he'd back my appeal."

During the three months waiting for his appeal hearing, he was “very stressed . . . you wonder whether you’re doing the right thing.”

He was called to an oral hearing in Dublin city centre.

'Very relieved'

“I didn’t know who I’d be meeting, a doctor or a civil servant or who. It was a man in a suit. When I was handing him papers my hands were shaking and he asked if I was nervous. I had to tell him, ‘No, that’s the tremors. It’s down in my appeal.’ He asked me some questions and then asked if I had anything more to tell him. I said ‘N

o’ and then he just said he’d be in contact.

“By that stage, I was just so tired of the whole thing. A few weeks later a letter came saying they decided I was entitled to the pension. I was thrilled, very relieved. But it’s a disgrace that the system puts you through that. I felt like I was stripped bare, having to tell them all my problems again. You feel humiliated. I’ve worked since I was 14, paid my taxes. It’s not like I was asking for something for nothing.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times