Sunday, March 7, 2010
RP ENVOY BACKS VETERANS SUIT
The special Philippine envoy for veterans affairs is standing behind a planned law suit to compel the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to accept other evidence for veterans who were rejected because they are not in the so-called Missouri List.
“I am with them in this struggle,” declared retired Brig. Gen. and special envoy Victor Corpus.
The applications of almost 9,000 veterans for lump sum payment were rejected – many reportedly because their names could not be found in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Congress earlier voted to pay a one-time lump sum settlement of $15,000 for Filipino World War II veterans in the US, and $9,000 for those in the Philippines.
The money is compensation for the injustice arising from the 1946 Rescission Act which withdrew recognition and benefits to hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers and guerillas who fought for the US military in World War II.
“It is unfair to rely on this criterion in evaluating the qualification of our veterans to receive this benefit,” Corpus averred.
Lawyer Arnedo Valera and Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) national coordinator Arturo Garcia earlier revealed their intention to sue the DVA in federal court.
Valera said they will seek declaratory relief with a petition for writ of mandamus and preliminary injunction to compel the DVA to accept secondary evidence in lieu of the Missouri List.
Garcia said a 1973 fire destroyed 80 percent of US Army personnel records from 1912 to 1960. “The US is using a reconstructed list,” he explained.
He added the discrepancy was evident as late as 2001 when records of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) showed there were 54,000 surviving veterans in the Philippines and 18,000 in the US.
In contrast, the DVA estimate that year put the number at 24,000.
Corpus said the DVA has not provided them details of the rejections. Of the 35,715 applications received as of Feb. 1, 2010, 4,400 were rejected outright as duplications or incomplete filings.
The DVA said 8,713 applications that were accepted for processing were subsequently denied.
Corpus said he’s been trying to get an appointment with DVA Secretary Eric Shinseki since he assumed his duties in DC late last year, to no avail.
The usually soft-spoken former chief of the Philippine military intelligence arm ISAFP signaled he was ready to go out on a limb again for the veterans.
This is an issue close to his heart, he says.
His father Vicente was a Battle of Bataan veteran; and his uncle Edmundo Navarro was a guerilla leader who operated in Northern and Central Luzon during World War II. Neither of them received any benefits from the US, Corpus intimated.
“You know me. I never run away from a good fight,” he said.
Corpus, who defected to the communist New People’s Army as a young lieutenant and professor at the Philippine’s equivalent of West Point, tangled with some powerful lawmakers when he used the ISAFP to dismantle the alleged network of narco-politics in the Philippines.
The $198 million earmarked for the lump sum settlement was computed on the basis of the Missouri List. In effect, only about 18,000 veterans here and in the Philippines can get paid without asking for more money from Congress.
A total of $149 million has been paid out to 12,417 Filipino WWII veterans here and in the Philippines – meaning only about 25 percent of the money is remaining for 14,585 or 40 percent of applications still waiting to be processed.
“Obviously the money is not enough,” Corpus acknowledged.