NEW JERSEY — In a good news to Filipino World War II veterans, the U.S. Congress has passed the final version of the Supplemental Appropriations Act. It includes a rider that provides $67 million in additional funding for the Filipino veterans’ lump sum claims.
“I’m happy to note that it is sitting on President Obama’s desk right now. The chances of it being passed are good,” said Jon Skelly, the Manila Regional Director of the United States Veterans (VA).
At the same time, in a letter to Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), Congressman Bob Filner (D-Cal.), chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, reiterated his continued support for Filipino veterans and provided JFAV with an update on the bill.
For over 65 years, Filipino veterans have waited for recognition of their services during the war. Both Philippine army regulars and guerilla fighters were ordered to serve under the U.S. Army by President Roosevelt in 1941, when Japan involved areas under American control. Filipino soldiers fought bravely against the Japanese. They gallanatly fought side by side with American personnel and suffered numerous casualties along with U.S. soldiers. While approximately 300,000 Filipinos fought under the American flag, less than 18,000 are estimated living today.
On February 17, 2009, Presiden Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included provisions benefitting Filipino veterans. Through an application and verification process, those eligible veterans living in the U.S. receive a one-time payment of $15,000. Filipino veterans who are living in the Philippines or those who are not U.S. citizens receive $9,000.
Records from VA show that more than 16,000 claims have already been paid, amounting to some $190 million. It has only $8 million left in the lump sum fund, with 4,000 more claims to process.
Art Garcia, coordinator of JFAV said the bill was necessary to pay the claims of Filipino veterans who depend on the lump sum compensation to survive. A newspaper account from the New York metro area cited a quote from another source saying that Garcia said claims of some veterans “were denied because the government was running out of money”, adding that the VA insisted there were only 18,000 surviving Filipino veterans.
“They were caught off guard when 46,000 veterans filed their claims,” Garcia was quoted as saying.
Skelly, together with other VA offocials, will be travelling to key cities in the U.S. to meet with Filipino veterans and talk to them about their claims.