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11/07/2013: PH WWII Vets Get Second Chance in Recognition Process

11 July 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Over 4,000 ageing Filipino World War II veterans have been given another chance in their bid for eligibility for benefits under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy welcomed the release of the report of the Interagency Working Group created by the White House to look into the application of Filipino veterans for benefits under the FVEC Fund signed by President Obama in 2009.

“We appreciate the commitment demonstrated by the Interagency Working Group and the efforts taken by the member agencies to review the certification process of Filipino veterans and address their concerns,” said Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. who has been actively involved in efforts to facilitate the grant of long-awaited benefits for veterans.

“We are hopeful that the procedures introduced will result in more appeals being approved and the processing time reduced,” Ambassador Cuisia said, adding that the development will benefit the over 4,000 Filipino veterans whose claims under the FVEC Fund were earlier denied.

According to Ambassador Cuisia, those denied eligibility are some of the surviving veterans who filed claims under the FVEC Fund. The FVEC was part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act and 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.

The report, entitled Recognizing the Extraordinary Contribution of Filipino Veterans, was released on Monday by Royse Cloud, White House Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families and outlines the efforts taken by the United States to increase transparency and accelerate processing of claims of Filipino veterans.

Under the new guidelines, Ambassador Cuisia said the US Veterans Administration will now consider Philippine Army documents from the Adjutant General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in evaluating the application for claims under the FVEC Fund.

“With this development, we will work closely with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and the AFP Adjutant General to ensure that the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Manila will be able to access Philippine Army documents that will aid in their positive evaluation of applications,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Prior to this, US authorities would only process applications filed by Filipino veterans if the National Personnel Records Center issues a certification that their names appear in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List prepared by the US Army at the end of the war, according to retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Embassy’s Office of Veterans Affairs.

General Lorenzana said the claims of many of Filipino veterans were disapproved because their names appear only in one list or the other but not both. “What the Embassy has been asking the US government to do is to allow Filipino veterans to submit other official documents and not decide the fate of our veterans based solely on the two lists,” he said.

In response to the efforts of the Embassy and Filipino-American organizations, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council established the Interagency Working Group—made up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Archives and Record Administration— in October 2012 to address issues surrounding the denial of claims of veterans under the FVEC Fund.

While the work of the Interagency Working Group is a very welcome development in the Filipino veterans’ pursuit of recognition, Ambassador Cuisia said the Embassy will continue to engage the US Government to explore all possible avenues that will help Filipino veterans avail themselves of the FVEC Fund and other similar benefits.

The development comes two months after Ambassador Cuisia reiterated his appeal to US authorities for recognition of the veterans.

“More than anything else, let us not forget those Filipino soldiers who fought under the US flag, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with their American comrades and who up to this day continue to fight for the recognition and benefits due them for their service to America,” Ambassador Cuisia said in a statement released on the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor.

“I call upon the US Army and the White House to honor our World War II veterans by according them due recognition by revisiting the certification process with the end in view of including other sources of records,” Ambassador Cuisia said. ###