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Former Nazis to Stop Receiving Social Security

Obama closes legislative loophole, ending controversial longtime practice

Stephanie Butnick
December 19, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Following an Associated Press report that revealed dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals were receiving Social Security payments long after agreeing to leave the country, President Obama signed legislation officially ending the practice. The bill moved quickly, getting unanimously approved by the House earlier this month and passed by the Senate two days later.

The new law targets suspected former Nazis who snuck into the U.S. after World War II and were stripped of their American citizenship when the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations discovered them. Most elected to quietly leave before they faced deportation, a deal sweetened by the promise of continued Social Security payouts.

The AP’s findings were pretty shocking: They reported that since 1979, at least 38 of 66 suspected Nazi war criminals who left the country continued to receive Social Security benefits.

The new legislation–and the speed with which it went through the bureaucratic system—is an attempt to reconcile and resolve the longstanding practice, which upset Jews, activists, and pretty much anyone who cares about things like Social Security.

“By lowering the threshold to loss of citizenship, a step known as denaturalization, the bill effectively shuts a loophole that for years had allowed suspected Nazis to continue receiving benefits even after being expelled from the U.S. for their roles in Third Reich’s atrocities,” the AP reports.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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