Grimsby man told he is fit to work despite blood clots, septicaemia and ulcers
DO you think this man looks fit for work?
Specialist doctors tell him he can't work. But doctors who decide who is entitled to benefits tell him he can.
James Major, 33, of Harold Street, Grimsby, says he has nearly died on three separate occasions after being forced to work when he felt he was unfit, and is now calling for changes in the way benefits are allocated.
His situation has led to Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell labelling the assessment system a "shambles" and urging him to appeal.
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Fisherman Mr Major suffers with blood clots and open ulcers which make walking painful and often cause him to be bed-bound.
He regularly has to travel to London for specialist medical care and has been told by professors at both Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals that he is unfit for work.
However, doctors who decide who is eligible for Employment and Support Allowances, deem Mr Major to be fit and healthy.
ESA, which is part of the Government's benefits scheme, provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability.
Mr Major claims he is now in a no win situation where if he returns to work he will be risking his life.
He has been brought back to land from his job at sea twice since 2010 as a result of his condition, and each time, doctors said his life was in grave danger.
The father-of-three said: "The ulcers on my legs started three years after I scratched myself on a cement mixer.
"The cut got infected and I ended up with blood clots in my legs and lungs. I was in hospital and also got pneumonia and nearly died.
"I started claiming sick benefit because I obviously couldn't work.
"After this I went for a medical at the Job Centre and failed it, but the doctor there said I was fit enough to work. At the time I could only walk with crutches
"I was told that I would have to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).
"But when I went to sign up for JSA, the staff there said I was clearly not able to work so I couldn't claim.
"I didn't have a choice but to go back to sea."
But being on his feet all the time only worsened his condition, and he went on to develop septicaemia.
After his second dash back to land, he tried to claim again, but was told the same as he was the previous time.
"I was advised to take legal action because of the situation and we won at a tribunal.
"I was ecstatic and we also got some money backdated."
Although the situation was resolved for a few months, Mr Major then had to go for a routine medical review which once again deemed him fit for work.
He added: "But I failed the medical and I am now back at square one.
"I now have to appeal again like the first time round.
"There needs to be a change in the way the system is run because I now have the choice of either not going to work and not be able to live or go and risk dying."
Austin Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, said the ESA assessment system is proving to be a "shambles".
He added: "I would advise this gentleman to appeal the decision and to get in touch with me as soon as possible so that I can advise him.
"A lot of appeals against ESA are being successful, which suggests there is something wrong with the assessment system.
"The problem is that even once the ESA has been granted, people are having a long wait for the money they are entitled to."