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JEFFERSON CITY — A final round of checks will be sent out next week for 610 blind Missourians who were shortchanged by the state for more than a decade.

The checks mark the beginning of the end of a more than 10 year-long court battle over a welfare program designed to help blind people in Missouri make ends meet.

The Blind Pension Fund was established in 1921 to provide monthly benefits to blind Missourians.

Monthly payments of about $730 per month are typically paid out to an average of about 3,600 recipients.

But, under a settlement approved last year, the state was required to pay out $21 million to resolve a dispute in which a group of pension fund recipients alleged the Missouri Department of Social Services and the State of Missouri Family Support Division incorrectly calculated the amount of money recipients were entitled to each month.

The first round of checks were sent out in January to people who are currently enrolled in the pension fund.

In most cases, the payout was added to their monthly check.

“That all went smoothly,” said John Ammann of the St. Louis University law school, which assisted in the case.

Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, said the average payment to those members was $2,403.

The checks being sent out beginning June 10 will be lump sum payments to people who are no longer enrolled in the program. Some may no longer participate because they had corrective eye surgery or moved out of the state.

Some of the money also will go to the heirs of recipients.

The average payment will be $2,206.

For recipients in both groups, the payouts ranged from a few dollars to more than $4,300.

Woelfel said there are about 50 recipients whose payments are subject to an administrative review process. If none of those are challenged in court, the payouts are expected to be completed by the end of June.

Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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