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Type-1 diabetes patients file fresh suit demanding gov't revoke pension cut-off

Plaintiffs with type-1 diabetes meet reporters after filing a fresh suit against the government over the severance of basic disability pensions, in Osaka's Kita Ward on July 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Maiko Umeda)

OSAKA -- A group of type-1 diabetes patients on July 3 filed a fresh suit here against the government demanding it nullify its decision to discontinue basic disability pension payments for people with the condition.

The move comes after the nine plaintiffs won a case at the Osaka District Court in April that recognized severing payment without providing a reason was illegal. Although the state did not appeal the ruling, leaving it finalized, it again notified the patients that their benefits would not be resumed.

In the latest lawsuit, filed with the same Osaka court, the plaintiffs complained that the government abused its authority by deciding to halt the pension even though the patients' conditions have not improved.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are residents of the western Japan prefectures of Osaka and Nara, among other parts of the country, aged between 27 and 50. They developed type-1 diabetes as minors and were recognized as having a level 2 disability that causes significant restrictions to their daily lives. Since turning 20, they had each received disability pensions ranging from some 800,000 yen to 1 million yen a year.

However, the government had discontinued the pension payment to the nine plaintiffs by 2016 after notifying them that their disabilities did not fall under the level 2 category. In the April ruling, the court found the state's notification that simply related its conclusion without providing reasoning illegal, but stopped short of deciding whether the plaintiffs had a level 2 disability.

After the ruling was finalized, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sent notices to the plaintiffs including the content of doctor's certificates, but the documents failed to explain why the plaintiffs' disability was downgraded. The plaintiffs claim that the ministry's notification was almost identical to the one they had received previously, and argued that it violated the Administrative Case Litigation Act, which prohibits an administrative body from making the same decision over again if it has already been rejected by a court.

There is no complete cure for type-1 diabetes and patients need daily insulin injections to lower their blood sugar counts. The ailment, which often develops in childhood, is different in nature from type-2 diabetes, which is a lifestyle disease that typically develops in adults.

"We decline to comment on the case as we have yet to receive the complaint," a health ministry representative stated.

"My mind went completely blank and I couldn't sleep at night," said one of the plaintiffs, a 38-year-old woman from Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, recalling the moment she received the latest health ministry notification.

Diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age 11, she had been on basic disability pension since 20. She sometimes loses consciousness due to low blood sugar, and has developed other intractable conditions that cost her around 20,000 yen in monthly medical fees. Even though her conditions have not improved, the state severed her pension in 2016.

She was relieved at the April court ruling that declared the pension severance illegal, yet the state did not resume her benefits.

"I want the time I spent on the trial back," she fumed.

By going to the court again, the plaintiffs will have to spend yet more time and money before a verdict is handed down. However, she decided to try, thinking, "For the sake of people who may develop the ailment in the future, we shouldn't give up."

A mother of two, she has tremendous misgivings about being forced to dig into her savings. "I have to deal with this disease for the rest of my life. I want society to be one that is friendly to people with disabilities."

(Japanese original by Fumie Togami, Osaka City News Department)

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