Friday, July 1

They ask the US Supreme Court to include Puerto Rico in the Social Security SSI program


View of the exterior of the Supreme Court in Washington DC

Foto:
DANIEL SLIM / AFP / Getty Images

SAN JUAN – Several organizations on Tuesday demanded that the United States Supreme Court include Puerto Rico in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the current exclusion of which is evaluated by the court.

The court is examining today in an oral hearing the controversy that the SSI benefits are only available to citizens residing in their 50 states and in the Northern Mariana Islands, but not in other territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands.

“We have seen first hand how the federal government discriminates against Puerto Ricans to the highest level despite being US citizens, “Frankie Miranda, president of the Hispanic Federation, said at a press conference in front of the Supreme Court in Washington.

Case of a Puerto Rican SSI beneficiary who returned to the island rekindled the discussion

This exclusion from the SSI, which has its origin in the same decree of the United States Congress that created the program in 1972, is once again topical in the case of the Puerto Rican José Luis Vaello-Madero.

This man resided in New York and had a monthly aid of $ 586 dollars from SSI, a payment he continued to receive when he moved to Puerto Rico in 2013.

However, when the federal government later learned that Vaello-Madero resided in Puerto Rico, the Social Security Administration He claimed the return of the $ 28,810 dollars received since their transfer to the island.

“Nothing has changed in the life of Vaello-Madero, except that he moved to Puerto Rico,” an island that has the status of a US Commonwealth, Miranda criticized.

SSI is a federal program that provides additional benefits to Social Security for people who are blind, with special needs or over 65 years of age who meet certain financial limits.

Biden in favor of the exclusion of SSI to Puerto Ricans on the island

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, announced last June that his Executive will continue to defend before the Supreme the law that excludes Puerto Rico from this federal program – as did his predecessor, Donald Trump -, although he acknowledged that it does not fit with the policies and values ​​of his Administration.

Given this position, Miranda stressed at the press conference that “the turn is now for Biden, who recognizes that this situation is unfair and unconstitutional.”

“This is not a legal argument, but an unconstitutional and human rights argument. What we demand is fair treatment for Puerto Ricans, ”he added.

In March 2020, the Federal First Circuit of Appeals determined that it is unconstitutional – for violating the constitutional clause of equal protection of the laws – to exclude residents of Puerto Rico from SSI.

For her part, Kate Lang, from Justice in Aging – an organization that fights poverty among the elderly – explained that the exclusion of Puerto Ricans from the program “causes more poverty and discriminatory rejections.”

Given this, Lang mentioned that as revealed by the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics in 2019, 26% of the group of people over 65 live in poverty and one in every six Puerto Ricans is disabled.

Likewise, Kimberly Sánchez Ocasio, a member of the International Union of Service Employees – one of the unions with the largest presence of Latinos in the United States – mentioned that 400,000 Puerto Ricans are eligible for SSI, which she assured “would reduce poverty in the island and emigration ”.

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