The appeals process for Social Security claims is taking as long as three years, reports The New York Times' Erik Eckholm. The average time between an appeals filing and a hearing is 500 days.
The toll can be visualized in terms of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and even deaths.
Although two-thirds of appealed cases result in overturned decisions of benefit to litigants, the delays are said to be endemic. If you want to put a number on these delayed hearings, try 755,000.
At the heart of this issue is purported lack of money to hire at least 150 new appeals judges to hear these cases.
The new judges, as well as the infrastructure to support them, would require $100 million more than President Bush has requested for this item in next year's budget.
OK, let's crunch the numbers. $100 million is about 12 hours spending on the unnecessary, $6 billion -a -month war in Iraq.
A war where well-connected military contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater are getting even richer while many of our most vulnerable citizens are going without the money they need to navigate their already difficult lives.
Putting a human face on the issue, Eckholm mentions the plight of Belinda Virgil of Fayetteville, North Carolina:
"Belinda Virgil of Fayetteville, N.C., has worried about her future since her initial application was turned down.
"Tethered to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day because of emphysema and life-threatening sleep apnea, Ms. Virgil lost her apartment and has alternated between a sofa in her daughter's crowded house and a friend's place as she waits for an answer to her appeal.
"It's been hell," said Ms. Virgil, 44, who finally got her hearing in November and is awaiting the outcome. "I've got no money for Christmas, I move from house to house, and I'm getting really depressed."
Gee, do you suppose a Halliburton or Blackwater contractor could take Ms. Virgil in? I'm sure there would be room in their mansion.
Hmm. Our disabled borthers and sisters suffer while our military contractors get rich.
Does that sound like "compassionate conservatism" to you?
Not to me.