Sunday, January 16, 2011
SHINSEKI VISIT TO MANILA WILL SHOWCASE FILVET BENEFITS
Officials here want to make sure Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki includes Manila in his itinerary when he visits US veterans facilities in the Pacific region this year.
“He said he might be touring the Philippines in 2011 so we’re trying to follow-up his plan for this year – if he can make the Philippines part of his itinerary,” explained retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.
In his last visit to Washington DC in 2009, Philippine Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina invited Shinseki to visit the Philippines after President Obama signed the bill establishing the $198 million Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) fund.
“They have veterans facilities in Korea, Japan and Guam and we would like to anticipate (his visit) para kung saka-sakali maganda ang dalaw niya dun,” Lorenzana averred.
As of Dec. 23, 2010, a total of 8,878 Filipino World War II veterans living in the Philippines have each received the $9,000 lump sum, equivalent to about P3.4 billion.
The VA's had a fully-staffed regional office in Manila since 1921, which oversees about a dozen benefits for WWII veterans in the country – disability compensation, spousal support, clothing allowance, burial and funeral allowance, and dependents’ educational aid, among others.
The VA has also invested over $20 million since the 1960s to help maintain and occasionally upgrade treatment capabilities at the Veteran Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
Shinseki, a retired four-star US Army general, has worked closely with Capitol Hill to ensure the FVEC's full implementation – when the original $198 million "lump sum" fund was about to be depleted, he convinced lawmakers to use part of his agency’s savings to replenish the fund.
As of Dec. 23, 2010, there were still 1,366 FVEC claims pending.
A total of 41,234 applications have been processed – 23,442 of them were subsequently disapproved.
A total of 8,914 Filipino WWII veterans living in the US have received the lump sum payments.
As of Dec. 23, 2010, the DVA revealed a total of $213 million have been paid out under the FVEC.
Obviously, Lorenzana and other Philippine veterans officials are eager to keep Shinseki on their side. Two bills have reportedly been filed in the current Congress – the refiling of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bill and another measure sponsored by California Rep. Jackie Speier that aims to amend the 1946 Rescission Act.
“Hindi natin masabi pero ganyan naman talaga sa Kongreso, we won’t know what will happen to the bills until they are deliberated in the (veterans affairs) committee,” Lorenzana explained.
That committee is now controlled by Republicans.
“Anything can happen, marami naman tayong mga kaibigan na mga Republicans na mabait sa mga Filipino,” he added, citing the support of California Rep. Darryl Issa, a co-chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral US-Philippine Friendship Caucus on Capitol Hill.
“He’s been very friendly with us in the past and I don’t think that’s going the change,” he averred.