Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin N. Lorenzana, head of the office of the Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Secretary Shinseki made the pledge during a conference held last Nov. 30 at the office of Rep. Bob Filner [Dem.-CA-51st], Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, with Rep. Filner, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Army Deputy Undersecretary Thomas Hawley and Rep. Mike Honda [Dem.-CA-15th].
Secretary Shinseki said he will look into the possibility of reviewing the appeals of 3,600 veterans, who have submitted their appeals.
At present, Filipino veterans of World War II can only apply for benefits under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 if their names are found in the “a Roster and a Discharge List” from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.
JAPANESE COLLABORATORS WILL NOT GET BENEFITS
While Ambassador Cuisia “insists that being in either of the list should serve as sufficient proof of service, Army officials stated that the two lists were diligently prepared and are meant to complement each other. Undersecretary Hawley added that it would be difficult to alter the certification process,” Mr. Lorenzana said.
Undersecretary Hawley also pointed out that the U.S. Army, through NPRC, denies certification to any veteran, whose name appears in a list of those, who collaborated with the Japanese Imperial Army. He also disclosed that the DVA has the discretion to assess information submitted by veterans and make its own determination.
Hawley clarified that for veterans who have become U.S. citizens and have been denied the benefits, the requirements for immigration are different from those for veterans’ benefits. The 2009 FVEC law grants a one-time lump sum to Filipino veterans in the amount of $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 to non-U.S. citizens. Out of the 42,553 who have applied for the benefit, 18,499 were approved and 24,125 were denied. Of those denied, 3,630 had filed notices of disagreement – the appeals process provided by DVA.
For his part, Representative Mike Honda suggested that a comprehensive study be made on this important subject, including the possibility of an executive order to address the concerns.
112TH CONGRESS NEARS ITS END
With the first session of 112th Congress almost over in a few days, an executive order to be signed by either Secretary Shinseki or President Obama that will allow other sources other than NPRC to be accepted to file benefits claims remains the only option left for the Filipino veterans, whose claims have been rejected. The veterans are in their nineties and are sickly and dying.
There is a pending H.R. 210, Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier [Dem.-CA-12th] that mandates the Secretary of the DVA to accept applicants whose names are not in the NPRC. To date, it has only gathered 81 co-sponsors, still 136 votes shy for it to pass in the House of Representatives.
While another S. 63 sponsored by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye [Dem.-HI] requires the Secretary of the Army to “determine the validity of the claims of certain Filipinos that they performed military service on behalf of the U.S. during World War II.” It asks the Secretary of the Army to consider “all information and evidence that is available to the Secretary, including information and evidence submitted by the applicant, if any.”
This Senate bill does not have a co-sponsor. It needs 51 votes to pass in the Senate.
Lorenzana said the Embassy’s Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) still continues to assist veterans with their appeals and the procurement of needed documents. Veterans in need of assistance may contact the OVA at telephone numbers 202 467-9410 and 202 467-0033, or by email at email@example.com. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PHOTO 1 (On FilVets)
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. (2nd from left) discusses the benefits that are due to Filipino World War II veterans pursuant to the 2009 FVEC law with Representative Bob Filner (leftmost) and Secretary Eric Shinseki (rightmost).(Photo courtesy of the Veterans Affairs Office, Philippine Embassy)
PHOTO 2 (On Executive Order)
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. (left) is shown in the photo above with Representative Mike Honda, who favors issuance of executive order, allowing acceptance of Filipino veteran benefit claims even if their names are not listed in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of the Veterans Affairs Office, Philippine Embassy)