Sunday, March 20, 2011
92-YEAR-OLD FILVET TO LEAD CHARGE ON D-C FOR WW-2 VETERANS EQUITY
Living up the adage about old soldiers, a 92-year-old Filipino veteran is leading the charge to Washington DC to press for full equity for World War II veterans.
Felino Punsalan will lead a delegation of other veterans, widows and Fil-Am community leaders from San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; New York; and the Metro DC region who will lobby Capitol Hill and the White House on April 13-14.
“I am never too old to demand justice from the government I defended,” Punsalan said at press conference in San Francisco.
They are pushing for House Resolution 210 sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (12th district, CA).
Arturo Garcia, national coordinator of the Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV), said the proposed “Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011” aims to provide the same benefits to Filipino WWII veterans, widows and children given to their American counterparts, including the $1,500 “lifeline pension” given to American veterans.
“This is our collective right as American veterans,” Punsalan explained.
Garcia claims the Speier proposal has received the backing of California Reps. Anna Eshoo (14th district), Mike Honda (15th district), Linda Sanchez (39th district) and Henry Waxman (30th district); and Illinois Reps. Jan Shakowsky (9th district) and Mike Quigley (5th district).
“We are going to meet our Representatives not to ask for entitlements, but for recognition and benefits for veterans that will restore their honor and dignity,” he explained.
“It is time for U.S. Congress to rectify the mistakes of the past,” he stressed.
Congress had passed in 2009 the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) that set aside $198 million to pay a one-time lump-sum settlement to about 18,000 surviving Filipino WWII veterans in the U.S. and Philippines.
That amount was later increased to about $213 million to pay all claims.
Of the 41,234 applications received by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), more than 23,000 were subsequently rejected for various reasons – many because their names couldn’t be found in US Army records kept in St. Louis, Missouri.
Two law suits have been filed – by lawyer Lou Tancinco and another by a coalition that includes the JFAV – that want the courts to order the DVA to accept other proof of military service other than the so-called Missouri List.
Garcia said the Speier bill also seeks to broaden the “basis of eligibility to include all military records” since the Missouri List was unreliable because the original records was destroyed by a fire in 1973.
It will also expand benefits to cover widows and children of deceased veterans who were excluded in the FVEC.
Garcia pointed out there are an estimated 50,000 surviving Filipino WWII veterans, over three times the number that was used during congressional deliberations on the FVEC.
In February, members of the California Assembly introduced Joint Resolution 6 that called on the U.S. Congress and President Obama to support HR 210.