Filipino Americans have been an important part of our nation’s diverse history. Since their first documented arrival in Morro Bay, California in October 1587, Filipino Americans have made remarkable contributions to every sector of American life, including government, business, and the military.
Indeed, in 1941, more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-arms and later fought under the American flag during World War II. Many made the ultimate sacrifice as both soldiers in the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and as guerilla fighters during the Imperial Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Later, many of these brave individuals became proud United States citizens. For over 60 years, Filipino veterans and community advocates have fought to obtain compensation for those who served with American soldiers during World War II.
President Obama recognizes the extraordinary contribution made by Filipino veterans. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the President signed into law, contained a provision creating the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. Eligible veterans who are U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $15,000; eligible veterans who are not U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $9,000. The Department of Veterans Affairs established a process, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, to determine eligibility to receive payments from the Fund.
To date, we are pleased that over 18,000 claims have been approved. However, we also have heard from many Filipino veterans who have been impeded from filing claims or believe their claims were improperly denied.
To address their concerns, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in collaboration with the Office of Management and Budget, has launched an Interagency Working Group comprised of officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Record Administration. The Interagency Working Group will be tasked with analyzing the process faced by these Filipino veterans in demonstrating eligibility for compensation in order to ensure that all applications receive thorough and fair review. This is part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country.
Chris Lu is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary. He is also Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.