Disabled in MN Complain About Diverted Funds

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Fundamental mismanagement diverted more than $1 billion meant for disability services in Minnesota to the state’s general fund, a class claims in Federal Court.
     In Minnesota, citizens with disabilities rely on the state’s Home and Community Based Waiver Services whether they need help finding a job, a wheelchair or other form of assistive technology, a caregiver or some other kind of support.
     Though most counties end each year with “a large reserve of unspent money” that had been earmarked for various waiver services, many citizens find themselves on waitlists for the services they need, sometimes for years.
     Minnesota, the state’s Department of Human Services and that agency’s commissioner, Lucinda Jesson, “have failed to take administrative steps necessary to correct underspending across all counties,” according to a federal complaint filed against the trio Friday.
     “Defendants have failed to ensure that otherwise eligible individuals are not improperly placed on wait lists for services when money is available under the waivers to serve their needs,” the complaint states.
     Kyle Guggenberger, a 25-year-year-old Hennepin County man with autism, filed the complaint along with four other Minnesotans with developmental disabilities and their parents.
     They say Minnesota is purposely underspending on waiver services so that the reserved money can be returned to the state’s general fund where it can then “balance other parts of the state’s budget.”
     “In DHS’s most recent summary of its Waiver Review Initiative, covering July 2012 to May 2015, 72 out of 81 lead agencies were identified as having unspent reserves of 4% or more in their DD Waiver at the time of review,” the complaint states, abbreviating the “developmental disabilities” waiver.
     Of these lead agencies, 30 had reserves of 10 percent or more, the plaintiffs claim.
     “Year after year, the total amount of money that goes unspent under the waivers numbers in the tens of millions of dollars,” according to the complaint. “For example, the unspent waiver funding for the DD Waiver totaled $51.743 million in 2008, $90.055 million in 2009, and $80.034 million in 2010.”
     The 37-page complaint includes a chart of DHS reports beginning in 1995 and ending in 2010 to illustrate more than $1 billion in unspent waiver funds.
     As of April 2015, there were 3,586 persons on wait lists for the DD Waiver and 1,430 persons on wait lists for the CADI waiver, which covers “Community Alternatives for Disabled Individuals,” according to the complaint.
     “Many of the individuals placed on wait lists by the counties and defendants remain on those wait lists for years,” the complaint states.
     Minnesota also fails to offer a legal reason for it puts individuals on wait lists, and keeps them there, the plaintiffs say.
     They seek an injunction requiring Minnesota and Jesson to request a supplemental appropriation of funds for Waiver Services, in a sufficient amount and for the period of time necessary to ensure plaintiffs will move up and off the wait lists.
     Pamela Hoopes with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the Minnesota Disability Law Center represents the plaintiffs, along with Shamus O’Meara with O’Meara, Leer, Wagner & Kohl.

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