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U.S. senate leader will appeal to Obama for Filipino WWII vets

/ 05:23 AM April 05, 2013

U.S Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

LAS VEGAS, Nevada–Showing support to local Filipino veterans of World War II, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will urge Pres. Obama to reconsider these soldiers’ compensation claims, which had been denied earlier.

“We can write a letter. I will do that,” Reid told Asian Journal when asked if he would consider asking the president to issue an immediate order.

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A White House order could direct government agencies to start accepting records from Filipinos who have authenticated proof of U.S. military service is the quickest solution to the problem of World War II veterans, most of whom are frail and in their advanced ages, a Las Vegas-based advocacy group had noted.

Since the Obama administration set aside $198 million in 2008 for benefits of Filipino veterans who fought in World War II, thousands of claims were turned down because their names were not on a prescribed list. This is even if the soldiers showed proof of U.S. military service authenticated by the Philippine government.

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Rescission Act

It was more than six decades ago when President Franklin Roosevelt promised military benefits to Filipinos who fought with the American military against the Japanese in World War II. But in 1946, the U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act, which stripped Filipinos of the benefits they were promised. Since then, several bills have been introduced in Congress in an attempt to give full equity to these Filipino war veterans.

It was only through the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Filipinos were finally recognized. The huge number of claim denials, however, has left many veterans uncompensated.

“An executive order from the president will get the Filipino veterans out of 66 years of not getting recognition,” Cesar Elpidio had told a Nevada senate hearing in 2012. Elpidio is adviser to advocacy group Filipino-American Veterans and Families of Nevada (FAVFA), which helps WWII veterans in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has been home to five Filipino veterans of World War II, who were made poster boys in Congress last year by U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, who is urging his colleagues to support the issue.

All five veterans, dubbed the “Mighty Five,” reside in Nevada’s third congressional district that Heck represents. Of the five, only three are remaining after 100-year old Silverio Cuaresma passed away last January and 83-year-old Romeo Barreras died last December.

Previous appeals

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In 2011, FAVFA urged Pres. Obama through visiting White House Initiative on Asians and Pacific Islanders to issue an order. The group asked the president to instruct the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and National Records Center (NPRC) in St Louis, MO to start accepting records from Filipinos who have authenticated proof of U.S. military service from the Philippine government.

In 2012, Nevada State legislators asked Pres. Obama to issue an order that will direct government agencies to start accepting records from Filipinos who have authenticated proof of U.S. military service.

“The committee members have voted with bipartisan support to send you this letter urging your full support of an Executive Order to allow for other options of verification for military service,” Sen. Shirley Breeden said in a June 4, 2012 letter to the president. Breeden is chair of the Nevada Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs.

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TAGS: Filipino Veterans, U.S. Senate, veterans rights, World War II
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