SSI benefits for US territories proposed
Updated: Jan 13
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Washington, D.C-- Jenniffer Gonzales-Colon, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, has introduced a bill that would extend the Supplemental Security Income to Americans residing in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
H.R. 256 is co-sponsored by Delegate James Moylan (Guam), Delegate Stacy Plaskett (UVI), Delegate Gregorio Sablan (CNMI), Congressman Darren Soto (Florida), and Ritchie Torres (New York).
The SSI program provides cash payments to disabled children, disabled adults, and individuals ages 65 or older who are citizens or nationals of the United States.
Currently, however, the Northern Marianas is the only territory that is included in the program along with the rest of the states.
The SSI was the focal point of two cases-- one in Puerto Rico and another Guam--that sought the reversal of Insular Cases, which treat territorial residents as second-class citizens.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress "can exclude residents of Puerto Rico from some federal disability benefits available to those who live in the 50 states."
"The current federal statute creates an inequity in the process, as those SSI-qualified U.S. citizens residing in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t qualify for the benefit," states a press release from Moylan's office.
However, if that very resident were to relocate to any of the 50 states or even to the CNMI, they would obtain the cash payments from the program. H.R. 256 seeks to correct this "injustice and would help many of our families residing in Guam and these other territories."
“While our office contemplated introducing a ‘Guam only' measure for SSI, we felt that a united effort of including all territories in the process would help in pursuing the greater objective, which is equity when it comes to federal programs that not all jurisdictions fairly receive," Moylan said.
"Plus, this team effort would allow Guam to join ranking members such as Congresswoman Gonzales-Colon and Radewagen, who are trailblazers in the fight for their respective territories, hence providing more strength in our efforts,” Moylan said.
“Our team will continue to educate members of the House on the inequity of the SSI, with the intent of securing additional co-sponsors. This will include members of leadership and my freshman class," he added.