Court: Guam's exclusion from SSI program unconstitutional

The supplemental security income program applies to Guam, a federal judge said in a ruling that struck down as "unconstitutional" a federal statute that discriminates against the territory.

"The court finds that the discriminatory provisions of the SSI statute and any related implementing regulations that discriminate on the basis of status as a resident of Guam violate the Constitution and Organic Act’s guarantees of equal protection," the U.S. District of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood wrote in a decision Friday, ruling in favor of an elderly woman with disabilities.

The case was filed by Katrina Schaller against the U.S. Social Security Administration, which administers the SSI program.

A native of Pennsylvania, Schaller suffers from myotonic dystrophy, a debilitating, degenerative genetic disorder affecting muscle function and mental processing.

When she moved to Guam in 2008, her SSI benefits were terminated. Her twin sister Leslie, who is afflicted with the same condition, has moved back to Pennsylvania, where she receives $755 a month in SSI payments.