Who would have access to SSI benefits?

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Washington D.C.- If the United States Congress or the Supreme Court soon extends the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people on the island will be able to apply for its benefits, which can grant an average monthly assistance of $ 418.

According to the Social Security Administration, people who are 65 and older, blind or disabled, who have limited “income” and “resources”, may have access to SSI. The program is currently offered in all 50 states, Washington DC, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Center for a New Economy (CNE) estimates that about 400,000 people can receive SSI on the island, if legislation is approved in Congress or due to the consequences derived from the Vaello Madero case

The Social Security Administration has indicated that the impact on the island of SSI can reach $ 2.27 billion annually.

To determine if a person has access to SSI, the Social Security Administration will look at both the person’s monthly income and their “resources” or “possessions.”

Additionally, under SSI, a person’s disability is defined as “the inability to engage in substantial gainful activities due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death,” according to the Congressional Investigations Service (CRS). In the case of a minor, it must be demonstrated that “his impairment results in marked and severe functional limitations,” the CRS said.

On its website, the Social Security Administration maintains that to qualify for SSI, a person “must have little or no income and limited resources.”

Income includes money a person earns, Social Security benefits, pensions, and the value of things that someone else receives, such as food and shelter. It does not count the first $ 20 a month of most of your income, the first $ 65 you earn working, or the food assistance benefits or shelter offered by nonprofits.

In the United States, the maximum monthly benefit will rise from $ 794 in 2021 to $ 841 in 2022.

“Where you live affects how much income you can have each month and still receive SSI payments. Each state has different rules “, says the Social Security Administration.

Also, “the value of your possessions must be less than $ 2,000 if you are single or less than $ 3,000 if you are married and living with your spouse.”

In terms of income, in the United States, it is normally estimated that a recipient of food assistance and Medicaid can receive SSI.

But, the criteria are multiple, so the authorities recommend using the Social Security website to make a reasonable estimate: https://ssabest.benefits.gov/benefits/supplemental-security-income-(ssi).

When calculating the resources that a person has, the Social Security Administration does not count the value of his house, if he lives in it, nor that of the car. “We may also not count the value of other resources, such as a lot in the cemetery.”added the Social Security Administration on its website.

The United States House of Representatives approved last week the budget reconciliation project with the president’s social agenda Joe Biden which includes the proposal to extend SSI to residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands beginning in January 2024.

Unanimity is still required from the Democrats of the Senate – at a time when two of its senators, Joe Manchin (West Virginia), and Kirsten Sinema (Arizona) -, to secure the approval of the bill. The goal of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (New York) is to pass the legislation before Christmas.

Because the legislation will in all likelihood be amended in the Senate, the lower house would also have to re-vote on the legislation before it can be signed by Biden.

At the same time, the Supreme Court of the United States is pending the challenge that the Biden government made of the decision of the First Federal Circuit of Appeals that declared unconstitutional the exclusion of residents of Puerto Rico from the SSI.

The judicial controversy arose from the attempt of the Social Security Administration to collect $ 28,081 that the Puerto Rican Jose Luis Vaello Madero received from SSI as domiciled in Puerto Rico. Vaello Madero had started receiving the money as a resident of New York.

Although it is not a class action, if Congress has not acted and the Supreme Court of the United States decides in favor of Vaello Madero, there is a possibility that the decision will open the door to the access of the island’s residents to SSI .

Before the First Circuit of Federal Appeals, however, there is another more comprehensive case – Peña Martínez versus the Secretary of Health of the United States – in which nine plaintiffs claim not only access to SSI, but also to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). ) and Low Income Subsidy (LIS) to purchase prescription drugs through Medicare Part D.

SNAP is the food assistance program that exists in the states, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico, the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN) is in force, which is received as a block grant and which allocates less funds than the Island would receive under SNAP.