The video above makes an essential point: tens of thousands of veterans from Puerto Rico have fought for their country, but cannot vote for their Commander in Chief and have no voting representation in Congress.
There’s more to the story. Veterans in Puerto Rico do not receive the same benefits as those in the states. Veterans benefits are one of the many things that, under the 10th amendment to the Constitution, are up to the individual states. There are some federal benefits, but many of the details are left up to the individual states. Since Puerto Rico is not a state, the decisions are largely left to Congress.
Puerto Rico offers 13 veterans benefits, compared with a national average of 36. These include no memorial, legal, or recreational benefits, but they do include some educational and health care benefits.
They have less access to healthcare services, though. With a population of 3 million U.S. citizens and some 90,000 veterans, Puerto Rico has only one VA medical center and 10 community satellite clinics.
Puerto Rico’s admirable high level of military service comes with costs for the territory. One such cost is in population.
Harry Franqui-Rivera, in an article called “The Well-being of Puerto Rican Veterans and Service Members and Their Place within the Diaspora,” reports that “In 2011, the America Community Survey (ACS) estimated that there were over 221,000 state-based Puerto Rican veterans along with roughly 24,000 in active service in the United States alone in addition to some 107,000 veterans residing on the island (U.S. Census Bureau 2011).”
Servicemen and women from Puerto Rico must have their training in states, and are often stationed in states as well. This encourages movement from the Island to the states, since veterans often return to the areas where they served to live after they leave the military. Dr. Franqui-Rivera’s research suggests that the numbers of veterans on the Island have diminished since 2011 because more veterans are moving to the states.
Puerto Rico’s dwindling population creates serious challenges for the Island’s future. The fact that veterans receive fewer benefits in Puerto Rico than in the states makes it difficult for veterans to stay on the Island.
Statehood is the clear solution. Join us to work toward equality for Puerto Rico through statehood.