Blind advocates on Blind Pension fund: "It's aggravating and frustrating"

8 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Tuesday, October 31 2017 Oct 31, 2017 Tuesday, October 31, 2017 6:57:00 PM CDT October 31, 2017 in News
By: Jessica Porter, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri is appealing a court ruling that said the state owes $26.3 million to more than 3,000 blind people that were underpaid by the Department of Social Services' Blind Pension Fund. 

"I was aggravated and frustrated kind of all at the same time," said Jannel Morris, local president of the Missouri Council of the Blind.

According to The Associated Press, this is the fifth appeal in an almost decade-long case. 

"I don't understand why they want to appeal something if they already know that they money is owed. If they already know they owe the money, then why not just pay it," Morris said. 

In a statement, Loree Anne Paradise, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Attorney General said, "We are continuing to contest the judgement and working to preserve all the State's options moving forward." 

When asked why the ruling was being appealed, the Missouri Attorney General's Office did not respond. 

Morris said, for people with visual impairments, the money can mean many things.  

"It means better equipment like circuit televisions, special glasses that will help those with limited vision see better, those who use braille, it helps them get audio devices, so that they can do what they need to do to live independently,"  she said.

Morris said some blind people could use the money to help with cabs and other transportation.

"The transportation that we have such as Para-Transit and Services for Independent Living, they do the best they can, they run six days a week, but, it still costs to use those services and if it's a time frame when nobody's running, then I have to take a cab from point A to point B and that gets more expensive," Morris said.  

The Blind Pension program was established in 1921 and is financed by state funds. Each individual receives $728 per month. Participants also earn medical coverage from MO HealthNet.

In 2006, the Missouri Council of the Blind sued the state for not using the funds appropriately. Currently, more than 3,000 Missourians participate in the program. 

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