Court Battles

Supreme Court to decide if Puerto Ricans eligible for SSI

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case on Puerto Ricans' eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), The Associated Press reported.

A lower court ruled in April that it was unconstitutional to exclude residents of the island, a U.S. territory, from SSI benefits for elderly, blind and disabled people. The Trump administration appealed the decision, citing two 20th century decisions by the high court that upheld the constitutionality of the original federal law creating SSI, which excluded U.S. territories.

Territory residents are covered under a separate program with more restrictive eligibility requirements, called Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled.

José Luis Vaello Madero, the party in the original case, lived in New York between 1985 and 2013 before moving to Puerto Rico and received benefits there for the next three years before being ruled ineligible. The Social Security Administration sued him the next year for compensation for the funds he had received.

President Biden has not yet indicated whether the U.S. will drop its appeal in the case. Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R), Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, used the Supreme Court's announcement to urge the administration to drop the case.

"On January 20, 2021, I asked President Biden to withdraw the Government's petition for certiorari in the Vaello Madero case and to allow the decision declaring unconstitutional the exclusion from the SSI program of the Americans living in Puerto Rico to become final," she tweeted Monday. "Once, again, I urge @POTUS to do the right thing and withdraw the case."

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