UKSSCSC CDLA_12940_1996 (16 February 1998)
Mr. D. Williams CDLA/12940/199616.2.98
Mobility component - "virtually unable to walk" - meaning of "severe discomfort" and its relationship to "pain"
The claimant suffered from osteoarthritis, superventricular tachycardia and anxiety. She claimed both components of disability living allowance but her claim was disallowed. On appeal the tribunal upheld that disallowance. The tribunal found that the claimant was "still able to walk 150 yards slowly with a normal gait and little pain." In their reasons they said "Nonetheless it was clear on her evidence that she was able to walk 125 metres with one stop and without the use of a walking stick. We are satisfied that she will walk slowly for the distance but with normal gait and with some discomfort but not severe pain. In our view this does not come within the definition of "virtually unable to walk"." The claimant appealed to the Commissioner with regard to the mobility component only on the ground that the tribunal had applied an incorrect interpretation of severe discomfort and pain and had not adequately explained its reasoning. The parties disagreed on whether "pain" was a lesser test than "severe discomfort".
Held, allowing the claimant's appeal:
The Commissioner substituted his own decision that the claimant was not entitled to disability living allowance.
DECISION OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER
"At the date of claim she was able to walk 1000 yards in 25-30 minutes at a steady pace and with normal gait. If she walked greater distances she got breathless. Since she submitted her claim she has suffered from osteoarthritis and was referred to a consultant rheumatologist. Her ability to walk has reduced as a result of the arthritis but she is still able to walk at least 150 yards slowly, with a normal gait and little pain. She claims that she is not prepared to go out of doors alone."
This is consistent with the statements recorded in evidence by the tribunal.
"Nonetheless it was clear on her evidence that she was able to walk 125 metres with one stop and without the use of a walking stick. We are satisfied that she will walk slowly for the distance but with normal gait and with some discomfort but not severe pain. In our view this does not come within the definition of "virtually unable to walk"."
"his ability to walk out of doors is so limited, as regards the distance over which, or the speed at which, or the length of time for which, or the manner in which he can make progress on foot without severe discomfort, that he is virtually unable to walk."
However, the claimant's representative and the adjudication officer now acting disagree about the application of this test to the current case. One submits on the basis of authority that "pain" is a lesser test than "severe discomfort", while the other, also on the basis of authority, submits the reverse. I dealt with this problem in my recent decision on file no CDLA/1101/1997. I have adopted and adapted the reasoning from that decision in the following paragraphs.
"I think that that phrase must receive a wide interpretation, and must be held to include pain, fatigue and unease of all kinds" (para. 5)
" the phrase 'severe pain or distress' seems to me to be drawing a distinction between the factor of pain, of which discomfort is a lesser concomitant, and the factor of distress which may arise from other reasons than pain: distress may result of course from pain or discomfort, but may also result from breathlessness ..."
Before the Court, as his Lordship noted, the parties had accepted that "severe pain" is a condition more serious than "severe discomfort". The Court held that the tribunal had applied the wrong test in concentrating on severe pain or distress and not severe discomfort.
Date: 16 February 1998 (signed) Mr. D. Williams