• Kyodo

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The Fukuoka District Court ruled Friday that the government should not have denied disability allowances to a 39-year-old man in Fukuoka Prefecture who did not enter the state pension program after turning 20 when he was a student, but rejected his claim for 20 million yen in damages.

The court nullified the state’s decision not to pay the plaintiff on the grounds that the man had shown signs of disability when he was still a minor. But the court avoided taking a position on whether the government’s decision was unconstitutional.

The plaintiff, who was diagnosed with symptoms equivalent to early signs of disability before he was 20 years old, “is qualified to receive” disability benefits, presiding Judge Yasuji Isshi said.

People who suffer disabilities when they are minors are automatically eligible to receive basic disability payments once they turn 20 and become legal adults.

Even though the plaintiff’s claim for compensation was denied, his lawyers said they consider the ruling a “substantial victory” as it points to a realistic relief measure.

Similar suits, involving people who were denied disability benefits because they hadn’t joined the national pension plan as students but suffered disabilities after becoming legal adults, have been filed at nine district courts.

The Tokyo, Niigata and Hiroshima district courts have ruled that the state either acted unconstitutionally or omitted provisions for students in compiling revisions to the national pension law.

But in late March, the Tokyo High Court overturned the Tokyo District Court decision and ruled the government does not have to pay damages to three disabled people for failing to take relief measures in connection with national pension benefits.

Until April 1991, when the revised National Pension Law — which requires everyone aged 20 or over to join the pension program — took effect, it was optional for students over the age of 20 to take part in the scheme.

According to the complaint, the Fukuoka man went to see a doctor around the summer of 1985 complaining of problems such as insomnia when he was a university student and still a minor. He was diagnosed as having a psychiatric disorder after he turned 20.

His parents applied for disability benefits, but the application was rejected because he had not joined the state pension plan, and their attempts to seek a review of the case twice were both dismissed.

The man is said to be suffering from severe disabilities and needs nursing care for his daily needs.

The plaintiffs claimed it was unconstitutional for the government to avoid taking steps to correct problems in the national pension system involving students and to leave the situation unattended, and accused the state of neglecting to come up with legislation to provide them with relief measures.

The state argued that the task of shaping the pension system lies within the scope of government discretion.

The Tokyo District Court ruling in March 2004 prompted the government to work out a system last December — which took effect this month — to pay disabled people who are not part of the pension program 40,000 yen to 50,000 yen in monthly benefits. Pension plan members receive 66,000 yen to 83,000 yen.

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