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Osaka court orders gov't to reinstate disability pension for diabetes patients

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto answers reporters' questions at the prime minister's office in Tokyo after a Cabinet meeting on April 12, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

OSAKA -- The Osaka District Court on April 11 ordered the government to reinstate basic disability pensions for nine type-1 diabetes patients, which it had severed without a detailed explanation.

Presiding Judge Masahiro Miwa pointed out that it is illegal not to provide a reason for severance of the pensions, as the move seriously affects patients' household finances. The plaintiffs are asking the government to resume payments without filing an appeal.

The nine male and female plaintiffs, hailing from prefectures including Osaka and Nara, both in western Japan, are aged between 27 and 50. They all developed type-1 diabetes, which tends to surface at a young age, as minors. They were certified as having a lower level of disability on a 2-point scale and each received approximately 800,000 yen to 1 million yen yearly.

However, the current Japan Pension Service Osaka Koiki Jimu Center notified one plaintiff in 2009 and eight plaintiffs in 2016 that they did not fall under this level, which requires the disability to cause significant restrictions to an individual's daily life. Their pensions were terminated without any information on the reasons for the move.

The ruling concluded that the notification was too brief, merely indicating that the plaintiffs could not be recognized at that level, and thus violated the Administrative Procedure Act that requires explanations for "adverse dispositions," or acts that impose duties on the affected person or limit their rights.

At least 25 patients in addition to the nine plaintiffs in the lawsuit had their basic disability pensions severed in 2016, according to Kinki Tsubomi no Kai, an organization for type-1 diabetes patients to which the plaintiffs belong.

Defense counsel head Kiyoshi Kawashita conjectured that large-scale severance of the pensions "may have been part of a move to curb social security spending."

In a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on April 12, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto indicated his intention to review how pension recipients are notified. He stated, "We will mull how much of a detailed explanation can be provided in written notification in the future." Nemoto did not say whether the government would file an appeal or comply with the plaintiffs' request to resume payments.

(Japanese original by Fumie Togami, Osaka City News Department, and Hiroyuki Harada, Medical Welfare News Department)

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