The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that Puerto Rico residents are eligible for Social Security disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program.
The Supplemental Security Income program provides for financial benefits to be paid to persons who are disabled, blind or over the age of 65. Residents of Puerto Rico currently are covered under a program that is jointly funded by the federal government and provides meager benefits. The court’s decision changes all that.
The court’s decision came in a case involving a man who moved from New York to Puerto Rico to care for his wife. The federal government filed a lawsuit seeking to receiver $28,000 in benefits paid to the man. The court has ruled in favor of the man.
The federal government argued that extending benefits to the island wasn’t financially feasible. The court decided that Puerto Rico contributes valuable dollars to the treasury, and therefore, residents are just as eligible for federal benefits such as disability benefits.
This decision could impact as many as 700,000 people in Puerto Rico who are eligible for disability benefits. Currently, Supplemental Security income benefits are available to all residents of the 50 states as well as Washington DC and the Mariana Islands. However, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam are excluded from benefits. This decision, therefore, marks a turning point for Puerto Ricans, and could also change the narrative for other territories.
Puerto Rico is currently in the middle of a recession, and although the same could also be said for other states, the fact is that the recession is going to impact the people of that territory even more. Puerto Rico has a higher poverty rate than other states with as many as 40 percent of residents living in poverty. Federal disability benefits would greatly help the most in need meet their living expenses.