Filipino WWII veterans pin hope on Obama
FILIPINO veterans who were denied compensation by the United States (US) for services rendered during the Second World War are pinning their hopes on President Barack Obama’s assurance that their concern remains a priority for the White House.
The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., at the same time, welcomed the recent release of a declassified US Army document that would hopefully help pave way for the release of the war benefits of some 24,385 aging Filipino veterans.
“We thank President Obama for his efforts to address the concerns of these Filipino veterans who fought under the American flag during the Second World War,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said. “We hope that these old soldiers will receive what is due them before they all fade away.”
Ambassador Cuisia said President Obama assured Executive Director Eric Lachica of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans that the issue remains a major concern for his administration during last month’s Veteran’s Day breakfast at the White House.
“It is our priority,” Lachica quoted President Obama as telling him when he mentioned the problem of Filipino veterans who were disqualified from the $265-million Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.
The fund, which President Obama approved in 2009, grants a one-time lump sum of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who have become US citizens and $9,000 for those who retained their Philippine citizenship.
Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, Head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy, said the disqualification issue stemmed from guidelines requiring each veteran to be certified by the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri using two lists prepared by the US Army.
General Lorenzana said that of 43,083 veterans who filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, only 18,698 are in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List that the US Army came up with at the end of the Second World War. The claims of the rest were rejected because their names were either not in the lists or are only in one of the lists, thus disqualifying them. The Philippine Embassy is most interested in those whose names appear in one of the lists.
General Lorenzana said the Philippine Government is hoping that the release of the 335-page document entitled “US Army Recognition Program of Philippine Guerrillas” would help resolve the certification issue.
The document, which was originally classified as secret, contains the process by which the US Army recognized those deserving guerrillas. This could serve as basis, along with other official sources of records, to determine whether the disqualified Filipino veterans are indeed eligible for the benefits, according to General Lorenzana.
The document was released following a meeting of the Interagency Working Group that was created in October to review the certification process for the Filipino veterans. The group is made up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Record Administration.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders co-chaired by Presidential Assistant Chris Lu recommended the creation of the working group following strong representations made by no less than Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Ambassador Cuisia and the Filipino-American community led by the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations.