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Published Date: 05 August 2010
A TERMINALLY ill man with a crippling lung condition has blasted Government medical tests after his benefits were stopped when he was declared fit for work.Michael Walker, aged 58, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, incurable scarring on the lungs, in March and given two years to live.
He says he was forced to give up work as a landscape gardener and is now on eight steroids a day and an inhaler. But at a medical test in May he says medics ignored his condition, and recommendations from Rotherham hospital, and declared him fit for work.
His employment and support allowance, formerly known as incapacity benefit, was suspended.
Mr Walker protested and his payments were restarted pending a hearing at a date to be fixed - but he says he was told he must attend JobCentre interviews to discuss his 'availability for work' or it will be stopped again.
A tearful Mr Walker, of Walker Street, Rawmarsh, said: "It's humiliating and degrading at a time when I could really do without the hassle.
"I think they had already made up their minds in that medical because they had targets to reach. To top it all they refused to take the additional information, including letters from my consultant.
"As well as trouble breathing my weakened immune system means I have to stay away from work environments because an infection could kill me. I really feel bitter about it."
The new fit to work test sees people quizzed by a medical professional.
Government figures show that in the year to November some 76 per cent of people were judged fit to work, or likely to be, or dropped out of the assessment process.
Mr Walker says he ran a landscape gardening firm for 14 years - employing two people - before that he ran a taxi company for 10 years which employed four. He added: "I have always paid my taxes and have even created jobs, I'm no work-shy scrounger."
Mr Walker spoke to The Star's Action Desk and we contacted the Department for Work and Pensions on his behalf.
A DWP spokesman said Mr Walker's Employment Support Allowance claim had now been approved.
He added: "We have looked again at Mr Walker's claim and have made payments to him after taking into account some details which we were not aware of at the time of his assessment. "We have also contacted Mr Walker to look at ways of offering additional support."