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Califano v. Torres
United States Supreme Court
435 U.S. 1 (1978)
A 1972 amendment to the Social Security Act created the Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) program. The program was created to support the elderly, the blind, and people with disabilities. Recipients had to be residents of the United States, which the act defined as those living in any of the 50 states or Washington, D.C. This definition meant that residents of Puerto Rico were excluded from receiving SSI benefits. The act also provided that there was no eligibility for benefits for months spent outside the United States. This geographic restriction meant that persons who received SSI while living in the United States lost those benefits upon moving to Puerto Rico. For example, Cesar Gautier Torres (defendant) lost the SSI benefits he had received while living in Connecticut. Likewise, Carmelo Bracero Colon (defendant) lost the benefits received while residing in Massachusetts, and Vega (defendant) lost the benefits received while living in New Jersey. These former recipients whose benefits were discontinued upon moving to Puerto Rico filed suits in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. In these cases, the district court viewed the act’s geographic restriction as a burden on the constitutional right of United States residents to travel and enjoined the denial of SSI benefits on the basis of a recipient’s relocation to Puerto Rico. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano (plaintiff) appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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