Pension Ombudsman Update Summer 2017

Welcome to our new Pensions Ombudsman Update. These updates are designed to help you get to grips with the Ombudsman’s thinking, to keep track of decisions on matters concerning police and fire service injury awards and non police related injury benefit schemes and to identify underlying trends.

Published in our “news” section, we will try to summarise the interesting decisions of the past three months or so.

John Lewis Partnership Pension Scheme (PO-11695)

Mr N has complained that the Trustee did not take the decision to cease his ill health retirement pension in a proper manner. In particular, he considers it placed too great a reliance on the advice from its own occupational health physician and did not give reasons for preferring her advice.

In PO-11695 Mr N (17 May 2017) the JOHN LEWIS PARTNERSHIP scheme trustees decided (having used the Trustee’s occupational health physician, Dr Eraneva, to consider medical evidence) that the member’s ill-health pension should be suspended as his condition was not permanent, despite the trustee having decided in 2009 and 2012 that it was. The Ombudsman’s Adjudicator was unable to find evidence of any change in the member’s condition or proposed treatments since those assessments.

The decision made it clear that there is an underlying principle that a pension, once in payment, was payable for life. A natural reading of the John Lewis scheme rule provided discretion to vary, suspend or reinstate pension was one that looked for a rational basis for change. The trustee did not apply its mind to the specific question of whether it should remove the existing entitlement, but took an approach akin to requiring the member to make a fresh application for an incapacity pension. This was maladministration and the trustee was directed to re-consider the decision to suspend the pension.

The Deputy Ombudsman accepted that the John Lewis scheme did not have to continue to pay an incapacity pension if this was no longer justified, but the trustee had to be able to point to a change in the member’s circumstances. The discretion to suspend was not an opportunity for the trustee to change its mind or interfere in its predecessors’ decisions.

Mr N stated that the Trustees placed too great a reliance on the advice from its own occupational health physician (Dr Eraneva) and did not give reasons for preferring her advice.

Whilst saying that it is not the role of the Ombudsman to review the medical evidence, the Deputy Ombudsman said;

but I also have reservations about the standard of proof applied by Dr Eraneva

Our Comment

The John Lewis scheme is a discretionary scheme whereas the police injury benefit Regulations are a statutory scheme. This is not the first time that the Pension Ombudsman has been guided by a purposive view of scheme rules dealing with ill-health. In PO-9309 Mrs R (10 June 2016) the Ombudsman opined that the starting position, where an employer had a discretion to pay a discretionary ill-health enhancement, should be to pay it.

All too often, because of the influence of NWEF, the selected medical practitioners used by police forces consider themselves as quasi-judicial and supposed “judges of fact”.

In fully upholding Mr N’s complaint, the Pension Ombudsman is showing a pattern that the views of the scheme’s own occupational health doctor do not trump the person’s own clinicians.  This is inline with previous decisions, such as the ill-health early retirement of Mr Y (PO-13059) when it was found that the employer’s flawed decision over-relied on its own medical advisers’ opinions.

 

 

 

Pension Ombudsman Update Summer 2017
Tagged on:

3 thoughts on “Pension Ombudsman Update Summer 2017

  • 2017-08-25 at 11:50 am
    Permalink

    I wonder how many bloody judgements these police forces want before they start implementing the pension regulations properly.

    We have Judicial Review decisions and Pension Ombudsman decisions and still they try to wriggle out of performing IOD reviews lawfully.

    The SMP’s involved in these corrupt practices need to sit up and take a serious note.

    When they spout the ridiculous notion that they are in a quasi judicial role and are some sort of judge, as opposed to an independent medical professional as the regulations require, (it could of course be argued that some are not fit for the title of medical professional and certainly not independent) then they are leaving themselves wide open to their integrity and conduct being challenged.

    You are not judges, quasi or otherwise. Nowhere in the relevant regulations does it give you the title or role of any sort of judge. You are supposed to be a medical professional, independent at that, making a determination of medical fact, end of.

    You cannot get away from the fact that your only role is that of a medical practitioner assessing a patient, and of course that role is governed by the General Medical Council.

    I would refuse to be MEDICALLY assessed by a JUDGE. Only a suitably qualified medical practitioner could have my permission to assess my medical issues.

    Every SMP who claims to be anything other than a medical practitioner needs reporting immediately to the GMC. It is a false assertion and the assessment would not have my true consent.

  • 2017-08-25 at 10:49 am
    Permalink

    REPTILES

    The assumption and assertion of SMP’s having a Quasi Judicial Role are the teachings of our very own preacher of Hate, Nicholas Wirtz.

    Unfortunately for them the Regulations as they currently stand refer to the position, as being occupied and performed by an Independent Doctor, not a Quasi Judicial Judge.

    It just takes you straight to the simple question, that should be qualified right at the start of the process.

    ” Are you performing this Review as my Doctor, and for the purpose of this review am I your Patient ”

    It is a Yes or No answer.

    There is no room for, ” actually I have a Quasi Judicial Purpose, and I am a judge ”

    If the answer is anything other than yes……

    See you later alligator!

  • 2017-08-25 at 10:09 am
    Permalink

    These people should never be allowed to forget that they, like us, are servants, that are supposed to serve, for the good of their oath and their patients.

Comments are closed.

This group of police force HR managers, occupational health personnel and the odd force solicitor is supposedly concerned in its quarterly meetings with keeping the police workforce fit and well. The clue is in the name - it is supposed to concentrate on people who work. However, it spends time also considering matters relating to disabled former officers. Quite what legitimates this group's interest in disabled private citizens who are in receipt of a police injury pension is a mystery.

The mystery deepens when it is revealed that the Home Office and representatives of the commercial company which has the contract to run Police Medical Appeal Boards, HML, also regularly appear on the list of delegates. The mystery morphs into something smelling of conspiracy when the delegate list is entirely absent of any representative of any of the people whose lives the NAMF seeks to affect. There is nobody from the Police Federation, nor from NARPO, nor anyone from any disablement charity, mental health association, etc. etc. In other words, the NAMF is a one-sided talking shop. Even at that level it is not properly representative of all police forces, for we note that there are rarely, if ever, delegates present from every area.

Those of us with long memories, recollect that the Home Office claimed that it had conducted what it called a 'survey' of all forces, way back in 2004, prior to finalising its unlawful guidance issued as Annex C to HO circular 46/2004. The HO claimed that their survey showed that it was common practice for forces to review the degree of disablement of injury-on-duty pensioners once they reached what would have been normal force retirement age. This is what the guidance said:

'This Guidance is being issued to help ensure a fairer, more cohesive approach to the payment of injury benefits to ill-health retired officers who have reached the compulsory retirement age with their Force. A recent survey found that practice in this area was diverse. Some forces automatically reduced degree of disablement benefits to the lowest banding when this age had been reached - others continued to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned.'

The plain truth, revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that there never was any survey. The HO later tried to claim that the bold, unmistakable claim made in its guidance resulted from 'round the table discussions' at meetings of the NAMF. Yet nothing even hinting at such discussions appeared in the minutes and the HO could not produce a single scrap of data nor any record or any other evidence to show quite how it had come to the conclusion that some forces automatically reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age.

Shockingly, further research revealed that absolutely no forces, not a single one out of the 43 in England and Wales, had ever reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age, automatically or otherwise. The Home Office was caught out in a blatant lie. It was a lie intended for one purpose only - its actually intent was to give an air of normalcy to the huge change in practice which the HO wished to bring about.

This astounding act by a Government department tells us what the NAMF was then, and remains now. It's objective in so far as police injury on duty pensions is concerned, is to subvert the law of the land. The law cannot be changed retrospectively, so the inner circle work to find ways to unlawfully manipulate it through influencing gullible HR managers, and by training carefully selected corruptible SMPs how to refuse grant of an injury award and how to conduct reviews which reduce the degree of disablement of retired officers.

And so the machinations of the NAMF continue...