This is my third blog regarding the Supreme Courts decision to hear the case of a resident of Puerto Rico drawing under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In a disappointing decision by the Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Vaello Madero, the Court held Puerto Rico residents do not have a constitutional right to certain federal benefits.
The only dissenting vote came from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor stated, “There is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others. To hold otherwise, as the Court does, is irrational and antithetical to the very nature of the SSI program and the equal protection of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.” Justice Sotomayor, who is from Puerto Rico, is correct in her argument as the SSI program is in its very nature for those who have not paid into the federal programs adequately to have a Disability Insurance Benefits claim under their own record.
The government had 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 from 2019 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.”
The SSI program is for those who have not paid into the system in order to be insured for Disability Insurance Benefits as well as children. Usually, none of the recipients under the SSI program have paid into federal income tax. While this decision is disappointing and a huge injustice to the residents of Puerto Rico, we here at Gardberg and Kemmerly continue to fight for our clients. 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 atwww.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.