San Juan, Nov 9 (EFE) .- Several organizations on Tuesday demanded that the United States Supreme Court benefit Puerto Rico from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the current exclusion of which is evaluated by the court.
SSI is a federal program that provides additional benefits to Social Security for people who are blind, with special needs, or over 65 who meet certain financial limits.
The court is examining the controversy today in an oral hearing since SSI benefits are only available to citizens residing in its 50 states and the Northern Mariana Islands, but not in other US territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam and the 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.
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 lived in New York and had a monthly help of $ 586 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 demanded the return of the $ 28,810 received since his 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.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, announced last June that his Executive will continue to defend before the Supreme Court the law that excludes Puerto Rico from this federal program, as did his predecessor, Donald Trump, although he recognized that it does not fit with the policies and values of your 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, a member of Justice in Aging – an organization that fights for the poverty of the elderly – explained that the exclusion of Puerto Ricans “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.
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 said would “reduce poverty in the island and emigration “.