Puerto Ricans get disability benefits for not speaking English

There are many Floridians who do not speak English in the home. Many, if not most of these people have come to the United States, specifically Florida, for better opportunities. Despite the United States being known as a land of opportunity, it is still difficult to land that all-important job when a person cannot speak English very well. People in this situation may need a hand up until they can get on their feet, and, as a current discussion about Social Security illustrates, they may be able to get that hand up from disability benefits.

The current news about Social Security Disability centers around the fact that many natives of Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean Sea that is treated like an American state in many respects, are able to qualify for benefits simply because they do not speak English.

While it is reported that almost 85 percent of Puerto Ricans do not consider themselves fluent English speakers, the problem is that Puerto Rico is a predominantly Spanish speaking country, with 95 percent of people learning Spanish in their homes. The upshot is that while not speaking English can, in practice, be a handicap to a person on the U.S. Mainland, it is probably not a handicap in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, under the current rules, residents of Puerto Rico are able to qualify for disability benefits if they do not speak English.

Officials at the Social Security Administration say that the Administration is evaluating whether or not to change its rules to close what some see as a loophole. For now, however, the important thing to remember is that in certain cases, the Administration will see the inability to speak English as a handicap that allows for the payment of benefits.

Source: Examiner.com, “Not speaking English is now a disability if you’re Puerto Rican,” Sylvia Van Peebles, April 12, 2015


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