US Supreme Court Rules Congress Can Exclude Puerto Ricans From Receiving SSI Benefits

© AP Photo / Jose Luis MaganaThe US Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 30, 2021
The US Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.04.2022
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Congress can exclude residents of the US territory of Puerto Rico from being eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
"The question presented is whether the equal-protection component of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause requires Congress to make Supplemental Security Income benefits available to residents of Puerto Rico to the same extent that Congress makes those benefits available to residents of the states," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote on Thursday. "In light of the text of the Constitution, longstanding historical practice, and this court's precedents, the answer is - no."
The Supreme Court explored whether SSI, which is available to low-income Americans age 65 and older or who are blind and disabled, would include Puerto Rico and other US territories. According to the US federal government, adding Puerto Rico in the mix of people eligible for SSI would cost $2 billion a year.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, was the lone dissenter.
Sotomayor explained that Puerto Rico residents do not have voting representation in Congress and cannot rely on their elected representatives to remedy existing disparities in treatment.
"In my view, there is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others," she said. "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."
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