Washington: A senior House Democrat demanded today that the Obama administration investigate the payment of millions of dollars in Social Security benefits to suspected Nazi war criminals and former SS guards.
Rep Carolyn Maloney of New York requested the inquiry in letters to the inspectors general at the Justice Department and Social Security Administration after an Associated Press investigation detailing the payments, which continue to this day.
Maloney, a high-ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the payments a "gross misuse of taxpayer dollars." The Justice Department said it was reviewing Maloney's letter.
The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
AP reported yesterday that dozens of Nazi suspects collected benefits after being forced out of the United States.
The payments flowed through a legal loophole that gave the Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the US.
If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal US government records.
The Social Security Administration has refused AP's request that it provide the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts.
AP last week appealed the agency's denial of the information through the Freedom of Information Act.
The appeal also cited several concerns about the Social Security Administration's handling of the FOIA request, including the agency's alteration of the request "in a manner serving both to undercut AP's inquiry while simultaneously sparing the SSA from having to disclose potentially embarrassing information," the Oct 16 appeal said.
Among those receiving Social Security benefits were SS troops who guarded the network of Nazi camps where millions of Jews perished, a rocket scientist accused of using slave laborers to advance his research in the Third Reich and a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
There are at least four living beneficiaries. They include Martin Hartmann, a former SS guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany, and Jakob Denzinger, who patrolled the grounds at the Auschwitz camp complex in Poland.Hartmann moved to Berlin in 2007 from Arizona just before being stripped of his US citizenship.
Denzinger fled to Germany from Ohio in 1989 after learning denaturalization proceedings against him were underway.