More than 70 per cent of refusals to pay invalidity pension are reversed on appeal, new figures from the Department of Social Protection indicate.
Of the 4,665 invalidity pension appeals considered last year, 3,336 (71.5 per cent) were upheld. Of the 1,517 such appeals considered in 2012, some 1,031 (67 per cent) were upheld.
The figure for the two years combined is 70.6 per cent. This compares with 49 per cent of appeals upheld in 2010 and 42 per cent in 2011.
The invalidity pension is a weekly payment of €193.50 to people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability, who have made PRSI payments.
Independent TD Patrick Nulty, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary answer from Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, described them as "very stark and very worrying".
He said they appeared to indicate “fundamental flaws” in the application process and he called for a “complete overhaul”.
“Citizens interacting with the department must be able to have confidence that their applications are being read and judged fairly from the outset. It would appear that there are pressures from within the department to turn down applications for this entitlement. It would appear that it is only when a refused application gets to the appeal stage that it is looked at properly,” the Dublin West TD said.
He said he had many constituents who were refused the invalidity pension at first instance but when they appealed they were approved. He was concerned some people who were refused would not appeal and there may be people who were entitled to the pension but not getting it.
“Of course we must have a robust system where applications are thoroughly examined and anyone not entitled to it is refused, but as I have said, it would appear that is not happening.”
Mr Nulty called for a complete overhaul of the application process, which he described as intrusive and invasive of people’s privacy.
A spokeswoman for the department said: “Claims are decided based on the information and supporting documentation supplied by the claimant. The onus is on the claimant to demonstrate eligibility.
“If the initial decision is to disallow the claim, it is open to the claimant to seek a review of the decision by a deciding officer and/or to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.
“These procedures are in place to ensure the highest standards of fairness in relation to the decision-making process.”