Lawmakers move to strip Nazis of benefits

RICHARD LARDNER
Associated Press

Washington – — A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to strip suspected Nazi war criminals of their Social Security benefits, insisting American taxpayers should not be underwriting the retirement of anyone who participated in the Third Reich’s atrocities.

The Nazi Social Security Benefits Termination Act comes in response to an Associated Press investigation published in October that revealed millions of dollars in benefits have been paid to dozens of former Nazis who were forced out of the United States. At least four are alive, living in Europe on U.S. Social Security.

The legislation would end benefits for Nazi suspects who have lost their American citizenship, a step called denaturalization. U.S. law currently requires a higher threshold — a final order of deportation — before benefits can be terminated. A companion bill to close this so-called loophole was introduced in the Senate.

Mike Long, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said “we’re eager to get this done” during the lame-duck session that will last until a new Congress begins in late January.

AP’s investigation found that the Justice Department used the loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. in exchange for Social Security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their Social Security benefits. The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a tool for expelling former Nazis.

“Our bill will eliminate the loophole that has allowed Nazi war criminals to collect Social Security benefits,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the bill’s main sponsor, said in a statement.

Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Leonard Lance of New Jersey joined with Maloney to introduce the legislation. There are 11 other co-sponsors.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

The White House and the Social Security Administration have signaled support for denying benefits to former Nazis.