Visiting solon: US may review rejected benefit claims of PH war vetsBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The United States is open to a review of rejected benefit claims of thousands of aging Filipino World War II veterans as deserving former servicemen should receive the compensation due them, the chair of the US House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said Friday.
Florida lawmaker Jeff Miller, head of a US congressional delegation that visited the Philippines this week, told the Inquirer on Friday that his government was willing to take a second look at claims of Filipino veterans earlier denied by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).
Miller quickly pointed out, however, that such review was not a guarantee of a reconsideration, saying the US government is “very careful” in studying and approving claims of Filipinos who served under the US flag more than six decades ago.
“We understand that there are other individuals who claim that they have a right to compensation, and I agree that every person should have the opportunity for a full and complete review,” Miller said.
“But we have to be careful that only those that have earned the compensation get the compensation,” added the lawmaker, who led four other fellow lawmakers on three-day visit in the Philippines.
During a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario requested Miller’s support as he called for a review of the rejection of claims of 24,385 Filipino veterans under the Filipino Veterans Equity (FVEC).
Miller said “there is support” in the US Congress for such a review.
“But that doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be a change. There are widows, dependents that have applied, there have been some fraudulent claims that have been discovered,” said Miller on the sidelines of a visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial Friday morning.
“Obviously those persons are not due the compensation. However, we want to make sure that every person that is due compensation receives,” he added.
FVEC is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provided compensation to Filipinos who fought on the American side during the second world war. The act provided a lump sum of $9,000 for each of the veterans residing in the Philippines and $15,000 for those living in the US.
The act requires veterans to have documents proving that they are listed on both the Roster of Troops and Discharge List of the US Army by the end of the war before they could receive benefits.
Some Filipino veterans have gone to court to press for compensation, saying thousands of claims were rejected because the US did not accept Philippine records of their military service during the war.
The veterans also challenged the US DVA’s requirement of documentation from a federal registry in St. Louis Missouri as records there were already destroyed in a fire, earlier reports on the case said.
The case is pending before the US Supreme Court after the veterans elevated their appeal already struck down by a federal appeals court.
Miller said President Barack Obama, under whose first term the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, already put together a commission for the claims reviews. The US Congress is also moving to straighten out the claims process through legislating on documents that could be used to prove war service.
“There are several bills pending in Congress that will deal with the types of documents that can be allowed as proof of service,” Miller said.