House To Hold Eligibility Hearings For FilVets

CHICAGO (JGL) – The United States House of Representatives will hold hearings at the Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 24, to find out if military records of Filipino World War II veterans can be considered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs even if their names could not be located in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in the St. Louis, Missouri.

Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev. 3rd), a majority member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Committee, announced in his website that Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold hearings on “Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund: Examining the Department of Defense and Interagency Process for Verifying Eligibility” at 2212 Rayburn House Office Building.

Representative Heck, a member of the US-Philippine Friendship Caucus, is the author of H.R. 481, which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to accept certain documents as proof of service in determining the eligibility of an individual to receive certain benefits despite not being on the Missouri List.

More than 24,000 Filipino veterans have yet to receive their Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FEVC) granted as a one-time lump sum of $15,000 for U.S. Citizens and $9,000 for non-U.S. citizens because their names could not be located in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The lump sum payment was a rider in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama in 2009.

H.R. 110 AND H.R. 1855

Heck’s bill, which has nine co-sponsors, has a similar bill in the House, H.R. 110 introduced by Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa (R-HI-1), H.R. 110, which 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 United States during World War II.

Representative Hanabusa also filed H.R. 1855, which requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a process to determine whether individuals claiming certain service in the Philippines during World War II are eligible for certain benefits despite not being on the Missouri List, and for other purposes.

In the U.S. Senate, Senators Heller (R-NV) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) co-authored S. 868, which requires the “Secretary of Defense to establish a process to determine whether individuals claiming certain service in the Philippines during World War II are eligible for certain benefits despite not being on the Missouri List, and for other purposes.”

A number of other House and Senate bills are pending in Congress related to Filipino veterans. Among them are the S. 1559, Benefits Fairness for Filipino Veterans Act of 2013, filed by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and its counterpart in the House, H.R.3207 : Benefits Fairness for Filipino Veterans Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4). These bills will amend title 38, United States Code, to modify the method of determining whether Filipino veterans are United States residents for purposes of eligibility for receipt of the full-dollar rate of compensation under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.”

Meanwhile, the bill, S. 690, Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, is still pending. It “deems certain service performed before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Scouts as active military service for purposes of eligibility for veterans’ benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Its counterpart in the House H.R. 1452 introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) has collected 37 cosponsors.

These bills will attempt to overturn the Rescission Acts of 1946 that deprived Filipino WW II veterans of benefits for their war services.
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Photocaption:

REP. JOE HECK WITH FILVETS:  Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3rd), right, shakes the hand of one of the aging Filipino World War II veterans during a Filipino veterans event. Photo shows at far right Filipino veterans advocate from Las Vegas, Nevada Mr. Luke Perry. (Photo posted on Rep. Heck’s website.)

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