Social Security Administration issues emergency message on restitution funds

Inherited German reparations won’t impact granting of Federal aid.

Child Holocaust survivors (photo credit: REUTERS)
Child Holocaust survivors
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Social Security Administration will no longer take inherited restitution funds into account in determining the level of federal aid granted to the heirs of Holocaust survivors.
The 1994 Victims of Nazi Persecution Act, which stated that payments made to individuals due to their status as Nazi victims must be “disregarded in determining eligibility for and the amount of benefits or services regarding all needsbased federally funded programs,” had previously been interpreted as excluding inherited reparations.
According to attorneys Michael and Barbara Lissner, “the Act has often been misunderstood or simply disregarded for two decades.”
After the supplemental security income of a child of survivors living in Washington Heights was cut off following his inheritance of such funds paid to his late mother, the Lissners began lobbying to push for clarity regarding inheritances in the law, they said.
Last month, however, the SSA issued an emergency message to its branches throughout the United States clarifying that while it “does not specifically address the treatment of reparation payments inherited upon the death of the victim of persecution,” the government agency considers that the bill’s exclusions apply to “payments inherited by any individual.”
“Prior to the issuance of the new regulation, children of Holocaust victims needed to retain lawyers to fight to keep these benefits,” the Lissners said, adding that “the SSA’s responsiveness and sympathy to Holocaust descendants demonstrated that it was possible to work with city hall and that it was particularly noteworthy that the government was willing to correct an erroneous position that had been in place for over twenty years.”
“Acting Commissioner Colvin and her team deserve great credit for taking this important step, which recognizes the need for clear regulations to enable survivors’ heirs, who are acknowledged to also be victims of Nazi persecution due to their parents’ experiences, to receive desperately needed financial assistance,” said Sam Dubbin, a Florida attorney involved in reparations cases who lobbied with the Lissners.
“We only wish that the [President Barak Obama] administration and Congress would be as serious about the gravity of the suffering that so many Holocaust survivors and their families have to endure in their final years, starting with a clear demand to German Chancellor [Angela] Merkel to provide for 100% of the resources all survivors need to live their final years in dignity.”