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US lawmakers seek to end benefits to former Nazis

October 23, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation to stop suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving U.S. government pension benefits will be introduced soon, members of Congress announced Thursday, the latest response to an Associated Press investigation that revealed millions of dollars have been paid to former Nazis who were forced out of the United States.

House Representatives Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat, and Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, will release details of the bill Friday. The legislation will be offered in mid-November, when Congress returns to session following the midterm elections.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey, both Democrats, said they will propose a similar bill in the Senate.

The AP’s investigation, published Sunday, has triggered outrage in Congress, on the editorial pages of newspapers across the country, and from the White House, which said former Nazis should not be getting these benefits, called Social Security.

“It is simply perverse that these criminals have been able to live comfortably abroad thanks to the American taxpayer,” Schumer said.

Casey credited the AP with revealing “a gross injustice” and said he’s hopeful that “Democrats and Republicans will come together to fix this problem in the very near future.”

The Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. in exchange for pension benefits, the AP found. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before being deported, they could keep these benefits, the AP found.

The Justice Department denied using the payments as a tool for expelling Nazi suspects. The department is “open to considering proposals addressing this issue,” said spokesman Peter Carr.

The Social Security Administration echoed the White House’s stance in a statement issued Thursday. The agency said it is “available and ready to provide technical assistance to proposals that would close this loophole.”

The Republican chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security and the panel’s top Democrat announced plans Thursday for a separate bill that would stop the payments and also require the Social Security Administration to produce a report on the number of Nazis whose benefits have been terminated.

“By leaving the country voluntarily, instead of being deported, these murderers were able to keep their benefits,” said the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Sam Johnson, a Democrat, “Congress must stop these benefit payments now.”

Maloney demanded Monday that the inspectors general at the Justice Department and Social Security Administration conduct an “immediate investigation” into the benefits payments.

Maloney said her congressional office has received dozens of calls in the last few days. “People are approaching me at events and indicating that they want to see the bill passed - and quickly,” she said.

The legislation to be unveiled by Maloney and Chaffetz would deny federal public benefits such as Social Security to individuals who participated in the Nazis’ persecution of Jews and other civilians during World War II

Their legislation would end benefits relatively quickly — within 60 days of an immigration judge’s order declaring a Nazi persecutor “to be ineligible for any public benefit and prohibiting any person from providing such a benefit.” Suspects who lose their benefits could seek a review of the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Schumer and Casey are members of the Senate Finance Committee.

Schumer has for years sought to close the loophole. In the 1980s, when he was in the House, he said the loophole was “often used as a basis to plea bargain.” Yet attempts to shut off the benefits failed, due in part to opposition from the Justice Department. The law enforcement agency argued that closing the loophole would undermine its ability to remove Nazi suspects as quickly as possible to countries that would prosecute them.

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Associated Press writer David Rising in Berlin and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.

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