- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2021

The Supreme Court said on Monday it will hear a challenge to the federal government’s denial of Supplemental Social Security Income to residents of Puerto Rico.

The justices announced they will hear the case of U.S. v. Vaello-Madero, a major territorial rights case involving a government benefit that is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the federal government’s exclusion of Puerto Rico residents from the SSI program on equal-protection grounds, saying it was not “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.”

If the high court upholds that decision later this year, it would mean billions more in federal funding for Puerto Rican residents.

The Trump administration, which filed the appeal, argued that a pair of 40-year-old Supreme Court decisions already upheld the federal law that created SSI and excluded Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories from it. Congress later added in the Mariana Islands.

In recent months, a federal judge ruled that Puerto Rico residents should have access to other federal welfare benefits from which they have been excluded as well. A federal judge in Guam said residents of that Pacific island also should be able to collect SSI.

A separate program, Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, covers residents of the territories, but it has more stringent eligibility requirements and pays less generous benefits than SSI.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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