Sunday, February 13, 2011
HOPE BRIGHTENS FOR FILVETS DISQUALIFIED BY MISSOURI LIST
Senator Daniel Inouye, appropriations committee chairman and long-time champion of Filipino World War II veterans, is filing a bill that will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to accept proof other than the Missouri List so disqualified veterans can receive lump sum payments.
Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, special envoy for veterans affairs, revealed this latest development that would address the biggest wrinkle in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) bill.
It comes a week before Filipino veterans group mark the 65th anniversary of the Rescission Act (Feb. 18) that arbitrarily withdrew recognition and benefits to about 200,000 soldiers and guerillas who served under US military command in World War II.
The FVEC was passed in 2009 to assuage the anger and resentment from surviving Filipino veterans but it still fell short of equity with American World War II veterans.
It provides a one-time lump sum payment of $9,000 for Filipino veterans living in the Philippines and $15,000 for those in the US.
Over a thousand FVEC claims are still pending with the DVA.
A total of 41.234 applications have been processed as of Dec. 23, 2010 – 17,792 were approved for Filipino veterans in the US and the Philippines.
The US paid out a total of $213 million so far (about $80 million or more than P3.4 billion were paid out in the Philippines).
On the other hand, the DVA rejected a total of 23,442 applications – a significant number because the veteran’s name couldn’t be found in the US Army’s National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.
Under existing DVA regulations, only the NPRC can verify US military service in these cases.
This, despite the fact, the original records for the Philippine Army Group was destroyed by fire in the 1970s and the existing list is actually a reconstruction.
Ben de Guzman, one of the key veterans activist on Capitol Hill, believes almost all of the applications have been processed and the DVA is working on the remaining appeals.
The DVA has not provided a breakdown of the reasons why applications were rejected. However, the DVA’s regional office in Manila has received over 3,600 challenges to their rejections.
Two law suits have been filed – by lawyer Lou Tancinco and a coalition of veterans groups that include the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) – to compel the DVA to accept “secondary evidence” other than the Missouri List as proof a Filipino veteran served with US forces and thus qualified to receive the lump sum payment.
Senator Inouye had actually filed a similar measure in 2007 but overtaken by the FVEC.
Senate 66 would have provided a 2-year window for Filipino veterans, their widows or children to provide evidence of wartime service to the Secretary of the Army. It stipulated that “in making a determination, the Secretary shall consider all information and evidence available to the Secretary, including information and evidence submitted by applicant.”
The certification from the Secretary of the Army could have then qualified as evidence for veterans applying for benefits with the DVA, if the bill passed.