USA will compensate WWII 24,000 Filipino Veterans

Filipinos who fought for the United States in World War II are shown last year at a Veterans Day ceremony in Manila. Romeo Gacad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

White House forms inter-agency group to aid Filipino WW II vets get compensation

To aid Filipino World War II veterans claiming compensation and recognition from the US government, the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) formed an inter-agency group tasked to help these soldiers.

"The [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," Chris Liu, assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, said in the WHIAAPI website last Oct. 17.

"This is part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country," Liu, who is WHIAAPI co-chair, also said.

The WHIAAPI is a federal working group that works to improve the quality of life of members of the AAPI communities. The initiative, in collaboration with the Office of Management and Budget, organized the inter-agency working group which will be composed by officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Some 24,000 Filipino soldiers who fought for the United States in World War II were deemed ineligible to receive amounts from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) fund due to lack of required documentation.

It was President Obama in 2009 who authorized the $198-million FVEC via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The fund allowed the one-time distribution of lump sum payments of $15,000 each to Filipino World War II veterans who are US citizens or residents. Veterans living in the Philippines were allotted $9,000 each.

But the VA had turned down thousands of claims because solders' names were not on the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. This roster is what is used by the US government to determine military service, including service given in World War II. The Filipino veterans claiming compensation, however, had proof of US military service from the Philippine government.

These veterans who fought with American soldiers against the Japanese in World War II were promised military benefits sixty-six years ago by President Franklin Roosevelt. But in 1946, the US Congress passed the Rescission Act which stripped Filipinos of the benefits they were promised. Since then, several bills have been introduced in Congress in an attempt to give full equity to these Filipino war veterans.

With the growing number of denied compensation claims, legislators and community advocates have fought for the plight of these veterans.

In Nevada, five Filipino veterans are still fighting recognition and compensation. This prompted several legislators have filed bills for their cause.

Last Sept. 21. US Rep. Joe Heck of the state's third district introduced House Resolution 6464 which instructs the VA to accept documents from both the Philippine government and the US Army in determining eligibility.

Three weeks prior, on Sept. 12, US Sen. Dean Heller introduced to the senate the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act that will allow veterans "to work with military historians so they can receive proper benefits for their service."

A Las Vegas-based group advocating for Filipino World War II veterans, however, said last year that an executive order from the president is the fastest way to help these veterans.

In 2011, the Filipino American Veterans and Families of America had asked the WHIAAPI, which visited Las Vegas that year, to take up the issue with President Obama.

(Asian Journal Press http://goo.gl/IoaTl  )

 (Las Vegas October 18-24, 2012 Sec. A pg.1)

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