The United States is open to a review of the rejected benefit claims of thousands of aging Filipino veterans who served with American forces during World War II, the chair of the US House committee on veterans’ affairs said on Friday.
Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, head of a congressional delegation that visited the Philippines this week, told the INQUIRER on Friday the US government was willing to take a second look at Filipino veterans’ claims that were denied by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).
In a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sought Miller’s support for a review of the rejected claims of around 24,385 Filipino veterans under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund.
Miller said, however, that such a review was not a guarantee of a reconsideration, saying the US government was “very careful” about approving claims by Filipinos who served under the US flag over six decades ago.
“We understand there are other individuals who claim they have a right to compensation and I agree that every person should have the opportunity for a full and complete review,” he said.
“But we have to be careful that only those who earned the compensation get the compensation,” he added.
The lawmaker led a five-man US congressional delegation on a three-day visit to the Philippines this week.
Miller said “there is support” in the US Congress for such a review.
“…[B]ut that doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be a change. There are widows, dependents who have applied, there have been some fraudulent claims that have been discovered,” he said, during a visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City yesterday morning.
“Obviously those persons are not due the compensation. However, we want to make sure that every person that is due compensation receives it,” he said.
The FVEC is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Arra) that provides for compensation to Filipinos who fought on the American side during the second World War. Filipino veterans living in the Philippines are entitled to a one-time payment of $9,000 while those living in the United States are to receive $15,000.
The act requires veterans to have documents showing they were on both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List of the US Army by the end of the war before they could receive the benefits.
Thousands of Filipino veterans received the compensation, while thousands more did not.
Some veterans have gone to court to press for compensation, saying their claims were rejected because the US did not accept Philippine records of their war service.
The veterans also challenged the US DVA’s requirement of documentation from a federal registry in St. Louis, Missouri, saying those records were destroyed in a fire.
Commission for claims review
The case is pending in the US Supreme Court to which the veterans elevated their appeal after it was struck down by a federal appeals court.
Miller said US President Barack Obama, during whose first term Arra was passed, had put together a commission for the claims review. The US Congress is also moving to straighten out the claims process by legislating what documents 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.