At least 375,000 Puerto Ricans are veterans or currently in active service in the United States armed forces. Puerto Rico’s history of military support for the United States begins, according to the Department of Defense, with the Revolutionary War.
Puerto Rico has a lot to be proud of on Veterans Day.
In the states, veterans are eligible for an average of 36 benefits, while veterans in Puerto Rico are covered by just 13, according to the Center for a New American Security. Benefits available in Puerto Rico include exemptions for property and income tax, a special license plate, education funding, and some health benefits.
There is just one veterans hospital in Puerto Rico, with two satellite clinics, and the average veteran must travel 25 miles to gain access to health care there. This is double the average distance in the states.
“Veterans in the U.S. territories are a largely forgotten and unsupported population, despite high rates of service that outpace many U.S. states,” says the CNAS. “However, these veterans do not have electoral votes in presidential elections, lack voting representation in Congress, and may have to go to great lengths to receive federal veteran benefits. Given current limitations on influencing federal policy, enhancing the provision and accessibility of benefits at the territory level is one way the territories could improve outcomes for their veterans.”
Statehood will bring greater influence on federal policy, and the likelihood of an improvement in veterans’ benefits.