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17/10/2012: White House Acts on Denied Claims of Filipino WWII Veterans

17 October 2012

WASHINGTON, DC—Responding to the strong representations made by the Philippine Government and the Filipino-American Community, the White House announced today it is taking a second look into the plight of more than 24,000 aging Filipino veterans who believe that their applications for compensation for services rendered during the Second World War were unfairly denied.

The Philippine Embassy immediately welcomed the White House announcement, saying this is a positive step that underscores the importance the United States places on the outstanding service rendered by Filipinos who fought under the American flag during the Second World War.

In his report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said the White House announced on Wednesday afternoon, 17 October 2012, the formation of an Interagency Working Group to review the certification process that denied 24,385 individual applications filed under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.

“We would like to assure our veterans that the Philippine Government will continue to exert strong efforts to convince US authorities to address the certification issue and grant them  the benefits they deserve,” the envoy said.

In his report, Ambassador Cuisia thanked Presidential Assistant Chris Lu, Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, for acting on the concerns of the Filipino veterans as conveyed to the US Government by no less than Secretary Del Rosario, the Philippine Embassy and the Filipino-American Community led by the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations.

It was Lu’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which together with the Office of Management and Budget, recommended the creation of the working group that will look into reports that a significant number of Filipino veterans have been impeded from filing claims or believe their claims were improperly denied.

“The Interagency Working Group will be tasked with analyzing the process faced by these Filipino veterans in demonstrating eligibility for compensation in order to ensure that all applications receive thorough and fair review,” said Lu, who sits as a member of President Obama’s Cabinet.

He said the working group will be made up of representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Record Administration.

“This is part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country,” added Lu, who cited the remarkable contributions of Filipino-Americans to every sector of American life since their first documented arrival in Morro Bay, California, in 1587.

According to retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy, the disqualified veterans comprise 56 percent of the 43,083 surviving veterans who filed their claims under the compensation fund, which grants a one-time lump sum of  $15,000 for veterans who have become US citizens and $9,000 for those who retained their Philippine citizenship.

He said the US Government has so far released a total of $223.7 million to 18,698 Filipino veterans from the $265-million compensation fund that was part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama signed into law in 2009.

General Lorenzana said the disqualification issue stemmed from the implementing guidelines issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011 requiring certification from the National Personnel Records Center that the names of veteran-claimants appear in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List prepared by the US Army at the end of the Second World War.

“Unfortunately, the claims of a large number of Filipino veterans were not processed because their names appear only in one list or the other but not both,” General Lorenzana said. “What we are requesting the US government is for them to consider all sources of records and not just the two lists.” ###