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Biden contradicts his own admin, calls for Puerto Ricans to receive Social Security benefits

Steven Hall, DCNF

President Joe Biden called for Puerto Rico residents to receive Social Security benefits on Monday, despite his own administration continuing to argue in the Supreme Court that Puerto Ricans are ineligible for the federal program.

Biden said in a White House statement that the Department of Justice has the right to defend the SSI provision, even though it “is inconsistent with my administration’s policies and values.”

“As I have stated, I believe that Puerto Rico residents should be able to receive SSI [Supplemental Security Income] benefits, just like their fellow Americans in all 50 states and Washington D.C.,” Biden said.

The Department of Justice filed a briefing Monday defending the government’s refusal to provide Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to a Puerto Rican man. The case United States v. Vaello-Madero follows José Luis Vaello-Madero, who was born in Puerto Rico born in 1954 and moved to New York in 1985.

He continued to received SSI — a government program that provides assistance to low-income households of Americans aged 65 or older, or with disabilities — when he returned to Puerto Rico, which the Justice Department says violated the program requirements, according to Harvard Law Review.

The SSI program is only available to residents of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the unincorporated territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the program doesn’t include Puerto Rico.

Vaello-Madero moved back to Puerto Rico in 2013 to take care of his wife and continued receiving benefits. During the summer of 2016, Vaello-Madero was notified by the Social Security Administration that he couldn’t receive any more benefits due to his move, according to Harvard Law Review.

The federal government later asked the District of Puerto Rico to give the $28,081 it gave to Vaello-Madero from 2013 to 2016. The district court later denied the government’s request, according to Harvard Law Review.

The Supreme Court will decide whether Congress violated the Fifth Amendment by creating a program that does not extend to Puerto Rico, specifically focusing on the equal-protection component which states no person will “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Biden called on Congress to amend the Social Security Act so residents of Puerto Rico are eligible for the benefits.

“As I’ve said before, there can be no second-class citizens in the United States of America. My Administration will work with members of Congress to make these legislative fixes a reality,” Biden said.

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