ONTD Political

ATOS case study: man awarded 0 points in disability test, man dies of lung problems shortly after

3:10 pm - 07/26/2011
Larry Newman was assessed by an Atos staff member and awarded zero points. To qualify for sickness benefit he needed 15. He died from lung problems soon after

Larry Newman attended a work capability assessment in March 2010, when a degenerative lung condition made it impossible for him to go on working in the wood veneer showroom where he had spent much of his career. His weight had dropped from 10 to seven stone, and he had trouble breathing and walking.

The Atos staff member who carried out the medical test awarded him zero points. To qualify for employment and support allowance, the new sickness benefit, he needed to score 15 points, and in July he received a letter from jobcentre officials stating that he was not eligible for the benefit (worth around £95 a week) and would be fit to return to work within three months.

He was devastated by the decision, and dismayed to note a number of inaccuracies in the report that accompanied the letter. He decided to appeal against the decision, but before three months was up he died from his lung problems.

His widow, Sylvia Newman, recalls that one of the last things he said to her, as doctors put him on a ventilator, was: "It's a good job I'm fit for work."

Mrs Newman has lodged an official complaint, with the help of Citizens Advice staff, highlighting 12 inconsistencies in the report by the Atos assesser. It said her husband had been unaccompanied. "I was with him, although in his medical report they claimed that I was in the waiting room," she says. The report says that Mr Newman's pulse was fine, that he had no scars on his chest and that he managed to climb on to the examination bed without any problem. Mrs Newman says that her husband did not get on to the examination bed, that his pulse was not taken, and that the assesser did not look at his chest, otherwise he would have seen scars.

She said: "They are charging the government a lot of money for these assessments, and I know that other very sick people have been treated as Larry was. I promised him I would pursue it. It wasn't a fortune, and we were struggling to survive. It wasn't anything he wasn't entitled to."


There have been similar stories like this since ATOS became involved with assessing people for disability benefits. It makes me so angry that some of the most vulnerable people in society are the ones whose lives are in the hands of these greedy, corporate, incompetent pigs. Just awful :(
paulnolan 26th-Jul-2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
Atos need destroying like, yesterday.
witherwings 26th-Jul-2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
I know it's bad, but I can't help expecting there to be news of suicides linked to ATOS/WCA soon. Really pissed at New Lab (who devised this system) and Cons (who think it's a brilliant idea and won't acknowledge the problems).

Additionally, no system with that number of successful appeals can possibly be a good one.
paulnolan 26th-Jul-2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I know it's bad, but I can't help expecting there to be news of suicides linked to ATOS/WCA soon.

NGL, I've considered it... I've got 2 appeals ongoing (one for my old IB claim, the other for my current ESA one), and both are riding on a hearing later this month... if I lose that not only will I not get my IB back money which I really need to pay off the debt I accrued while waiting for appeal (they punish you for appealing by cutting your money) I'll have to go on JSA and I'm really not fit for work. :|
witherwings 26th-Jul-2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Oh shit. I really hope that stuff works out for you before you feel you have to take that step. I don't know what else to say really without delving in to trite and clichéd so I'll stop there.

Fucking hate these people (where these people are the government/Houses of Parliament, DWP and ATOS).
paulnolan 26th-Jul-2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not an immediate suicide risk, don't worry - things are going okay apart from that in my life and I haven't had an episode with my bipolar in a while now, touch wood. It's just yeah... it's been going on for ages now and it's really getting to me.
alryssa 27th-Jul-2011 08:43 am (UTC)
they punish you for appealing by cutting your money

jfc, these assholes. HDU CHALLENGE US, PEON.

chaeri 27th-Jul-2011 03:59 am (UTC)
So, basically, it's turning in the US Social Security Disability system. In nearly all cases, you HAVE to appeal twice - with a lawyer - to even have a prayer at winning. And that's just the beginning of the mess.
svtstarlight 26th-Jul-2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
How long has ATOS been around? I'm wondering if this is the same organisation who sent the git around 13 years ago to see me who lied thru his teeth, meaning I didn't get disability allowed, nor the appeal. And now my health is worse (incl. mental health from going so long without anything being sorted) and I still don't qualify for anything. >.<#
sesmo 26th-Jul-2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
These stories are always shitty. You will always find civil servants who lie and don't actually do what they were supposed to. I hope they have some sort of internal procedures to weed out the folks that are clearly lying/cheating. As long as they have a reasonable appeal process, and they get rid of the people who are gaming the system, I don't have a problem.

* Disclaimer: I don't know enough about ATOS to know whether the problems are systemic or not.
witherwings 26th-Jul-2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
They are completely systemic. Of cases that appeal (and large numbers are/do) 40%+ are overturned, and there is good cause to suppose that if all applicants were properly supported and counselled then the appeals/overturning rate would be even higher. Course, ATOS don't care - they get paid a bonus for every person they kick off disability benefits.
sesmo 26th-Jul-2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
Ah damn. Everyone (and I mean every scientist) knows that if you align the incentives for a particular outcome, you're quite likely to get that outcome. Reward for denials, and you'll end up with incorrect/unfair denials. Reward for accuracy, and you'll end up with accuracy. Setting up the bonus structure that way is a deliberate attempt at ensuring unfair rejections. I really hope someone appeals this up the foodchain, to change the policy.
chaeri 27th-Jul-2011 04:01 am (UTC)
I think every three year old knows that, actually.
brewsternorth 26th-Jul-2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
Uuuuuuugggggh. That sounds like the grunts in US health insurance companies paid by whom they can kick off their rolls/fail to pay their whack if some premium-paying person dares to make a claim.
witherwings 26th-Jul-2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
Additionally, disability benefits have the lowest rate of fraud of any kind of benefits, and the rate of official errors from DWP is higher than the rate of fraud on those kind of benefits (ISTR reading somewhere that the government has a brilliant wheeze of punishing people for official errors now too. Lovely).
ragnor144 26th-Jul-2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Nice to see that privatization is going as well for the UK as it is here in the US. Would you like me to send over Wackenhut to administer your prisons? They are also doing a bang-up job.
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