Former Nazis should not be collecting Social Security benefits, the White House declared on Monday, a day after an Associated Press (AP) investigation revealed that millions of dollars have been paid to war crimes suspects and former SS guards even after they were forced out of the United States.
"Our position is we don't believe these individuals should be getting these benefits," White House spokesman Eric Schultz was quoted by AP as having told reporters in Chicago.
He did not specify, however, whether or how the government might end the payments.
AP reported Sunday that dozens of Nazi suspects collected benefits after leaving the United States. The payments flowed through a legal loophole that gave the Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records.
Among those who benefited from this loophole, AP discovered, is Jakob Denzinger, against whom Croatian prosecutors opened a war crimes investigation last January, on suspicions he was a guard in several Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Other beneficiaries included armed SS troops, an SS guard who took part in the brutal liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland, and a German rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket that pummeled London.
The White House comments came after a senior House Democrat demanded the Obama administration investigate the benefit payments, according to AP. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York requested the inquiry on Monday in letters to the inspectors general at the Justice Department and Social Security Administration.
Maloney, a high-ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the payments a "gross misuse of taxpayer dollars" and said she plans to introduce legislation to close the loophole.
The Justice Department said it was reviewing Maloney's letter. The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and previously refused to disclose the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts.