Ill health pension complaint against Welsh council upheld

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has upheld a complaint against Torfaen County Borough Council for its delay in processing an ill health retirement pension (IHRP) request.

In May 2011, ‘Mr I’ applied for an IHRP from Torfaen council, but did not receive it until 2016.

Furthermore, when it was awarded, it was only backdated to 2015 and not 2011, when it was originally requested.

Upon upholding the complaint, TPO said that the council shall consider backdating Mr I’s IHRP to May 2011 and pay him £1,000 for the serious inconvenience and distress.

Mr I was employed by the Council as a third-tier manager until he left his employment due to ill health in February 2006 and became a deferred member of the LGPS.

When he applied for the IHRP, Mr I was asked to provide his medical reports at his own cost, which he said that he could not do as he was homeless and living abroad, and that the specialist who had been treating him did not do medical reports.

A formal internal complaint was raised with the LGPS in February 2013, after delays around obtaining further medical evidence to support Mr I’s application.

He then did not contact the council for two years due to his ill health and “the lack of support from the council”, before reapplying for the IHRP, which the council assured him was being processed.

In June 2016, an independent registered medical practitioner assessed Mr I’s IHRP application and concluded that Mr I met the criteria for ill health benefits.

However, these benefits were only backdated to 2015, the date of his most recent application.

In its decision, TPO said: “I have considered all the events leading up to the 2016 decision about Mr I’s ill health pension and I find the council should have provided Mr I with more support and understanding for his health condition.

“It is unreasonable that it has taken Mr I around five years for his ill health pension application to be concluded.

“I agree with the council that Mr I did not always respond to its emails in a timely manner, but this does not seem to me to be the reason that his application was delayed.

“I find that had Mr I not been asked to cover the cost of medical reports, he would probably have applied for his IHRP in May 2011 which was when he first made a concerted effort to access the necessary medial reports.

“Therefore, I uphold Mr I’s complaint.”

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