Missouri Could Pay Blind Residents $19 Million

By Stuckey, Alex | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Missouri Could Pay Blind Residents $19 Million


Stuckey, Alex, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


JEFFERSON CITY * The state soon could be shelling out more than $19 million in damages for shortchanging blind Missourians' benefits following a court decision Tuesday.

The Western District Court of Appeals determined that a previous calculation of damages owed to about 3,000 blind residents receiving state benefits was too low. The new figure is around $19 million, up from a previous court's determination of less than $200,000, said John Ammann, an attorney representing the blind.

Blind residents have received monthly cash benefits from the state since the 1920s. State voters set up the pension plan through a constitutional amendment. These pensions are based on property tax revenues.

But the Missouri Council of the Blind asserts that the state had been miscalculating the monthly pension amount since the early 1990s. Council representatives tried to talk to the state for years, but nothing came of it, said Chris Gray, council executive director.

So, the organization filed a lawsuit in 2006. A court later determined the state was calculating the pension benefits incorrectly, according to court documents.

Gray said that problem was addressed by the state and hasn't occurred again, but the group has been battling the state over damages for years.

The court of appeals decision Tuesday could be a resolution if the state doesn't appeal. A representative for Attorney General Chris Koster said the office is reviewing the ruling.

If there is no appeal, the state will have to find the $19 million to pay out to the estimated 3,000 recipients. That money could be added into the fiscal year 2017 budget, which begins July 1, or it could come from a supplement in the current year's budget, which ends June 30. …

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Missouri Could Pay Blind Residents $19 Million
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