Previously, I had written regarding the fact that residents of Puerto Rico are only able to obtain Social Security benefits under the Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) or Title II program for Social Security. They are not, however, able to obtain benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The rules exclude many disabled residents of Puerto Rico who have been unable to work. Additionally, this excludes help for most children who claim disability, as those claims usually fall under the SSI program. The reason for this is because the Social Security Act excludes Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, from the SSI benefits program.
On February 4, 2019, U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi issued an opinion in a lawsuit noting that the denial of SSI disability benefits to United States citizens in Puerto Rico is unconstitutional and “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”
The Government argued that the cost of including Puerto Rico in the SSI program would be too expensive, especially since residents of Puerto Rico do not pay federal income tax, which funds the SSI program. The First Circuit’s decision by Judge Gelpi stated “this is not a valid justification for creating classifications of United States citizens and justifying the same under the lax scrutiny of social and economic legislation. While line drawing is necessary for Congress to pass social and economic legislation, it is never a valid reason for disparate treatment of United States citizen’s fundamental rights… [which] are the same in the States as in the Territories, without distinction. Equal Protection and Due Process are fundamental rights afforded to every United States citizen, including those who under the United States flag make Puerto Rico their home. All United States citizens must trust that their fundamental constitutional rights will be safeguarded everywhere within the Nation, be in a State or Territory.” (emphasis added).
On March 1st, the Supreme Court of the United States granted cert. in United States v. Vaello-Madero and oral arguments are scheduled to take place in the next term, which begins October 2021.
The SSI program is available for those who have not paid into the system in order to be insured for Disability Insurance Benefits. Glaringly obvious is the fact that children have not paid into the system, so the government’s argument for excluding Puerto Rico is especially unfounded. Usually, none of the recipients under the SSI program have paid into federal income tax.
If you or someone you know needs help with a disability claim please call us at 251-343-1111 or 1-800-332-1529 or look us up online at www.gardberglaw.com. Send us a message and we will be happy to review your claim and see if we can help you get the benefits you deserve. Call one of the experienced disability representatives at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today for a free consultation. Gardberg & Kemmerly specializes in helping the injured and disabled in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana.