On Tuesday, November 9, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of United States v. Vaello-Madero.
This case began after the federal government filed suit against Jose Luis Vaello Madero to recover $28k in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits paid to him after he moved from New York to Puerto Rico, where residents are not eligible to receive SSI benefits.
SSI is a needs-based program for aged, blind, and disabled individuals that is currently available to residents in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Social Security Act excludes Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, from the SSI benefits program under 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(e).
Both the District of Puerto Rico and the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that excluding otherwise eligible individuals from the SSI program solely because of their status as Puerto Rico residents violates equal protection under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments from both sides to determine the constitutionality of excluding residents of Puerto Rico from the SSI program. While it may take several months for a decision in the Vaello-Madero case, if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower courts, the federal government would be required to extend SSI benefits to eligible Puerto Rico residents.