JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is appealing a ruling that the state owes $26.3 million to more than 3,000 blind people who were underpaid by the Department of Social Services' blind pension fund.
Attorney General Josh Hawley's office filed a notice Monday that it would appeal a Cole County judge's decision, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The appeal is the fifth in a decade-long case over a fund was established in the 1920s to provide a social safety net for the blind. It currently pays 3,000 Missourians roughly $728 a month from a special levy on property taxes. In 2006, the Missouri Council of the Blind sued the state for using money from the fund for other expenses.
Judges have agreed the money should be paid out, but the appeals have delayed that process. While the case is pending, the state is on the hook to pay interest at 9 percent per year.
"Our clients are really disappointed the state is dragging this out," said attorney John Ammann of the St. Louis University Legal Clinics.
The attorney general's office defended its latest maneuver.
"We are continuing to contest the judgment and working to preserve all of the state's options moving forward," said Loree Anne Paradise, deputy chief of staff.
If the state had settled the long-running lawsuit five years ago, taxpayers could have been billed $7 million less.
Chip Hailey of Joplin, who is blind and helped initiate the lawsuit more than a decade ago, said the delay is frustrating because the issue of the underpayments is not in dispute.
"It's very, very irritating. Let's just settle this thing and move on," Hailey said. "We need to get this thing behind us. I was taken back that we didn't get better cooperation from the state when we stated our case."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com