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Disabled mired in backlog for aid

N.C. joining federal effort to speed benefits to needy

FRED KELLY
frkelly@charlotteobserver.com

Ronald McKoy, homeless and HIV positive, applied for Social Security disability payments in October 2004 because he said he was too sick to work.

About a year later, social workers say, the 50-year-old McKoy barely weighed 100 pounds and went to a local hospital vomiting blood.

Yet, even when he died in February as a resident of the Uptown Men’s Shelter, he was still awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether he qualified for disability benefits.

"He was clearly disabled," said Lynn Bishop, McKoy’s attorney. "I’m confident he would have won."

Bishop said the monthly payments — $947 for the average recipient — could have helped McKoy find a home and get food and medicine. McKoy had worked as a day laborer. Every American worker pays Social Security taxes, which fund the program.

Delays such as McKoy’s have prompted efforts to fight the nation’s ballooning backlog of disability cases. (more…)