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The government failed to pay 41 billion yen in special benefits to 21,000 women whose husbands were killed in World War II, and the statute of limitations on claiming the benefits has expired, the welfare ministry said Sunday.

The benefits went unpaid because the government mishandled the process of switching to a computer system in 1985 to manage the list of applicants.

The benefits have been provided every 10 years, starting in 1963, in the form of government bonds. Only those who apply can receive them.

The government started using computers in 1985 to draw up the list for informing applicants of the benefits.

However, only people who applied in 1985 or later were entered in the computer system, meaning that widows who applied before 1985 had to do so again to be included in the new list.

Asked why only new applicants were entered in the computer system, an official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry was quoted as saying, “There were restrictions on manpower and other things,” according to Keiichiro Asao, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan who is working on the issue.

The ministry estimates that about 19.3 billion yen was not paid to about 9,600 people in 2003. In 1993, about 21.6 billion yen was not paid to 12,000 people. There is only a three-year statute of limitations for receiving the benefits.

Recipients got 2 million yen in 2003 and 1.8 million yen in 1993.

The DPJ plans to submit a bill to the Diet this week to eliminate the statute of limitations.

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