WASHINGTON, DC—American legislators and Filipino-American groups welcomed the announcement by the White House that it will review the cases of more than 24,000 aging veterans whose claims under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund have earlier been denied.
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), who have been pushing for recognition of Filipino Second World War veterans, threw their support to the initiative that was announced on Wednesday by the White House.
Presidential Assistant Chris Lu, Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, announced the creation of an interagency working group that would help resolve the cases of 24,385 Filipino veterans who feel that their bid to claim benefits for their service during the Second World War were unfairly denied.
Ambassador Cuisia said that among the first to welcome the initiative was CAPAC Chair and California Rep. Judy Chu, one of the sponsors of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, who reiterated her commitment to honor veterans for their service and ensure that they receive the full benefits promised to them by the US government.
“President Obama signed the legislation that established the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund, and the announcement reaffirms the President’s commitment to honoring these brave veterans for their sacrifices and service,” Congresswoman Chu said.
Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Akaka said Filipino veterans fought honorably and bravely under US command and deserve to be remembered for their deeds. “I am so pleased that the Obama Administration is launching this new initiative to make sure all of these honorable veterans and their families receive the benefits awarded to them by Congress.”
For his part, California Rep. Mike Honda, CAPAC Chair Emeritus said “the announcement that the Obama Administration is creating an Interagency Working Group shows that President Obama continues to be a true champion for the Filipino World War II veterans.”
California Rep. Jackie Speier said that while she supports the efforts to ensure that claims and benefits for Filipino Word War II veterans are properly managed, the US Congress has to act to ensure that veterans and their families are entitled to full benefits and compensation for their service, “not the negotiated half-settlement currently afforded to them.”
“Filipinos were American nationals when they fought in the war and they were promised full benefits by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A promise made, should be a promise kept. We have broken our promise and it’s time to make amends,” she said.
In a statement, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) said it welcomes the assurance that the Interagency Working Group will “ensure that all applications receive a thorough and fair review.”
“We applaud this positive step being taken by the White House to ensure that all eligible veterans receive what they deserve,” said NaFFAA National Chairman Ed Navarra as he cited the commitment of the Obama Administration to help address the concerns of Filipino veterans. “This recent initiative to thoroughly review all submitted claims that had been denied is a reaffirmation of that commitment.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy, said the disqualified veterans comprise 56 percent of the 43,083 surviving veterans who filed their claims under the compensation fund, which grants a one-time lump sum of $15,000 for veterans who have become US citizens and $9,000 for those who retained their Philippine citizenship.
He said the US Government has so far released a total of $223.7 million to 18,698 Filipino veterans from the $265-million compensation fund that was part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama signed into law in 2009.
General Lorenzana said the disqualification issue stemmed from the implementing guidelines issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011 requiring certification from the National Personnel Records Center that the names of veteran-claimants appear in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List prepared by the US Army at the end of the Second World War.
Photo courtesy of Philippine Consulate General Honolulu.