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Wait for help finally ends

Tommy Yarborough, a formerly homeless Charlotte man whose case highlighted delays in the Social Security disability program, has been ruled eligible for benefits.

Yarborough, 40, said he learned Tuesday that an administrative law judge has awarded him monthly disability payments.

He wrote two opinion columns in the Observer last year about how he became homeless waiting years to learning if he would receive benefits. Yarborough has been diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, a nervous system disorder that causes pain and muscle weakness.

The federal government deducts taxes from nearly all wokers' paychecks for insurance in case they become too sick to work. Most applications are initially rejected, but workers can request an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge.

But in the Charlotte area applicants wait on average 643 days for hearing. The government ackowledges that many people go bankrupt, become homeless or even die waiting for a hearing.

A former bartender, Yarborough unsuccessfully applied for benefits in 2003 and again 2005 after moving to North Carolina from Washington, D.C.

Last month, he presented his case to a Charlotte disability judge. He summed up his feelings after the hearing this way: "I've gone through all the emotions. It reaches a point where you can't dwell on it, or that will make you sick."