Daniel O’Brien was shocked to bebilled £31,640.71 for ‘overpaid’ Pension Credits but was even more shocked to find it was because he was ‘abroad’.
Mr O’Brien, 65, of Beaumont Close, Bury St Edmunds, says he has never been abroad and was admitted to hospital seven times, including for a heart bypass, in the five years the Department of Work and Pensions said he was abroad between April 2008 and December 2013.
A passport he says his sister got in case they went on holiday expired in August 2010 and has not been renewed and appears unmarked. The Bury Free Press’s archive holds a picture we took of him in Bury four months after the DWP says he left.
After the BFP called the DWP a spokeswoman admitted it had ‘put the wrong code’ on the letter and apologised for causing confusion, but Mr O’Brien said: “The way I’ve been treated on the phone has been ‘you’re guilty, off you go’. Quite honestly, it’s stressful.”
Mr O’Brien’s problems began in November when the DWP wrote saying it would call him, but did not. He then received a ‘change of circumstances form’ and admits: “I didn’t fill it in. I hadn’t had a change of circumstances.”
Three weeks later he was sent another form and filled it in. But this month a man from the DWP called and handed him the bill for overpayment.
Then St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s benefits department sent a letter saying: “Your benefit has been suspended as I have been advised [by DWP] that you no longer receive pension credit guarantee because you are abroad.”
Mr O’Brien said: “They were brilliant.They reinstated my housing benefits and that.”
The DWP spokeswoman said: “There has been overpayment and we will be going out to visit the customer. I can’t discuss actual figures.”
Mr O’Brien said he could think of no change in circumstances that would have removed his right to the credit.
“I only get what I’m entitled to, nothing more, nothing less,” he said.