Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in issuing files from the invalidity pension section to the appeals office; if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who requested an appeal on 27 March 2012 and whose file has not yet reached the appeals office; if she will ensure that information between the sections in her Department are passed on within a reasonable amount of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton (above): Invalidity pension section has been involved in a business process improvement review and backlog elimination programme. This programme has led to a significant reduction in the number of invalidity pension claims awaiting decision, down from 7007 claims at end May 2012 to 2593 claims at end Feb 2013. In addition, new claims are now processed on receipt with a decision being made based on information provided or, if this is not possible, further medical evidence or additional information is requested and a decision is made on receipt.
As a consequence of the very high number of decisions made in the last 9 months, there has been a corresponding substantial increase in the number of appeals being received. Delays in the preparation of claims for appeal are arising as a consequence and this is regretted. Invalidity pension section is now focussed on reducing the backlog in the appeals area.
In addition, delays have developed in the processing of medical assessments and reviews due to a combination of factors including the increased workload for medical assessors and the reduced number of medical assessors due to retirements. The Department is addressing this issue and has recently run a competition to establish a new panel of medical assessors. Three new medical assessors were appointed from this panel and all commenced work in November 2012. It is expected that a further 8 medical assessors will be appointed from the panel in the near future.
With regard to the specific claim mentioned; this department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned on 11 August 2011. The claim was disallowed on medical grounds and the person in question was notified of this decision and the reason for it on 13 February 2012.
The person concerned appealed the decision and sent in further medical evidence in support of the claim. This additional evidence, along with the original information, was referred for medical opinion on the 24 May 2012. It was evaluated by a different medical assessor on 21 January 2013 who has confirmed the opinion that the person concerned does not satisfy the medical criteria. Upon receipt of this opinion, the deciding officer forwarded all the relevant claim papers to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) for determination on 11 February 2013. The SWAO will be in touch with the person in question directly regarding the progress of their appeal.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.