Schaer, Johnson & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Protect Holocaust Reparations Advances in Assembly

An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to protect monetary reparations received by Holocaust survivors from being seized.

"The physical and moral atrocities committed during World War II were compounded by monetary grievances that stretched on for decades," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Given the extraordinary lengths many Holocaust victims or surviving relatives have gone through to receive restitution, protecting these reparations is the least we can do."

Specifically, the bill (A-1041) stipulates that, except for child support payment orders, monetary reparations designated for or received by a Holocaust survivor of Nazi persecution from any governmental source or victim assistance source shall be exempt from all claims of creditors and from levy, execution, attachment, or other legal processes.

"Monetary reparations are a relatively small pittance for the enormous crimes committed against humanity by the Nazis," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "But for many surviving families, this is all they have and should be protected at all costs."

"As the dust has settled on this sorrowful chapter in history, certain things must be treated as sacred and this is one of them," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This is the right thing to do for the many families who only have monetary reparations to serve as justice in the end."

In 2000, a global settlement agreement and plan of distribution was ratified which included the establishment of an $800 million settlement fund designed to provide restitution to Holocaust victims and their survivors for money illegally obtained from Swiss banks by the Nazi regime. The Claims Resolution Tribunal has received over 32,000 claims from Nazi victims or their heirs to assets deposited in Swiss banks in the period before and after World War II.

At about the same time, the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims established a program to settle insurance claims never paid to Holocaust victims or their heirs. Recently, Holocaust survivors or their heirs have begun to receive reparations payments from the funds established for this purpose. It is estimated that approximately 4,500 Holocaust survivors live in New Jersey.

Because these funds represent reparations for money improperly seized or withheld, the sponsors hope to ensure that they are not further diminished by remaining subject to creditor or other claims.

The bill also exempts these funds from estate recoveries under the Medicaid program. Under State and federal Medicaid law, a state must seek recovery from the estate of the deceased Medicaid recipient for all services received when the recipient was 55 years of age or older, such as nursing home services, home and community-based services and related hospital and prescription drug services. 

Federal law exempts Holocaust reparations payments as assets/resources for the purposes of determining eligibility for Medicaid as long as the payments are "separately identifiable," that is, maintained in a separate account. Any interest or dividends earned on the reparation payments, however, are not exempt from Medicaid's calculation of income and assets/resources. This bill would continue the exempt status of the reparations payments upon the death of the Medicaid recipient by providing that they are not part of the Medicaid recipient's estate and, therefore, not subject to recovery in an estate proceeding of a Medicaid recipient.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

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