Social Security paid more than $20 million in benefits to alleged Nazis over the last five decades, according to a new internal audit completed late last week that found the last known or suspected Nazi finally stopped getting benefits only last month.
All told, 133 individuals “alleged, or found” to have been part of Nazi persecution were paid Social Security during the period from 1962 to January 2015, the agency’s inspector general said in a report dated Friday.
“We now have a full accounting of the Social Security benefits paid to alleged and convicted Nazis,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York Democrat who’d asked for the report. “It is outrageous that any Nazis were able to receive benefits, but this report also makes clear that the Social Security Administration lacked the legal authority to terminate benefits in far too many of these cases.”
Most of the 133 individuals had died, but five who had fled the U.S. were still getting payments as of late last year under a loophole of the law.
One of those, a man living in Germany, was paid $400,000 in benefits until he was cut off in January. Three others were also cut off at that time, while another, who lived in Germany, wasn’t affected by the law, but he died in March and had his benefits cut off as of last month, the investigators said.
The loophole allowed Nazis who left the U.S. before they were officially ordered deported to keep getting benefits.
“For example, in August 1989, a beneficiary who had served as a guard at several Nazi concentration camps began receiving retirement benefits. The beneficiary left the United States in August 1989 after he learned DOJ had planned to file a denaturalization action against him,” the investigators said.
“According to DOJ, the government could not bar the beneficiary’s departure. Because of his departure, the immigration court did not retain jurisdiction, and DOJ had no legal basis to seek the beneficiary’s deportation. The beneficiary’s citizenship was subsequently revoked in November 1989. However, the beneficiary received $399,505 in benefits from August 1989 until January 2015,” the inspector general said.
The Associated Press first reported that payments were still being made last year, spurring Congress into action.
Lawmakers quickly passed the “No Social Security for Nazis Act” to correct the situation, and President Obama signed it Dec. 18.
Of the 133 individuals deemed to have been part of Nazi persecution, 38 of them were officially deported. That latter group received some $5.7 million in payments.
All of the 133 individuals were paid out of Social Security’s main retirement fund, but one of the 133 also received concurrent supplemental income payments too.
Averaged out across all 133 suspected Nazis, they each received more than $150,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits.
The inspector general found that, in four instances, the federal government continued to pay suspected Nazis even after they had been deported. The government paid out $15,658 in wrongful benefits to those four.
The U.S. began to investigate former Nazis in the decades after World War II, but the work began in earnest when the Justice Department established the Office of Special Investigations in the late 1970s.
Dozens of U.S. residents were eventually prosecuted for involvement in Nazi activities, and in successful cases the government would try to find ways to revoke their citizenship and deport them.
The 133 cases cited by the inspector general included individuals who were never officially determined to have taken part in Nazi persecution. In some cases those involved have denied the accusations, the investigators said.
The cases could become complicated. According to a 2008 draft Justice Department report, one suspected Nazi, who received $412,436 in Social Security benefits, had his U.S. citizenship revoked but was later deemed to have been an American citizen from birth. He was allowed to remain in the U.S.