Pinoy veterans score Pentagon inaction on Obama order

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jul 30 2012 10:25 AM | Updated as of Jul 30 2012 10:32 PM

WASHINGTON D.C. - Filipino veterans assailed the alleged inaction of the Pentagon on an 8-month-old Obama directive to look into the possibility of using documents other than the so-called Missouri List that can make them eligible to get a one-time lump sum payment.
Filipino World War II veterans from the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV), led by its two top leaders Patrick Ganio, 91 and Franco Arcebal, 86, railed against the White House last July 26 to draw attention to their plight.
They called on President Obama to deliver on his promise to help the aging Filipino World War II veterans after thousands were turned away because their names could not be found in the official US Army roster in St. Louis, Missouri.
They complained that their petitions have largely been ignored by US Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller who was apparently tasked to look into President Obama’s directive last November to “update and simplify” procedures for recognizing Filipino World War II veterans.
Instead, the elderly veterans lamented, a US Army policy declaration last May 2 determined that Philippine Commonwealth military records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis was deemed “not official”.
This appeared to contravene the spirit of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation – tacked into the 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (aka stimulus bill) which had at least recognized the validity of the Missouri List, they noted.
The equity compensation provides $15,000 for Filipino World War II veterans living in the US and $9,000 for those in the Philippines. The amount was settlement for the 1946 Rescission Act that deprived Filipino soldiers and guerillas who served under US military command in World War II of veterans benefits, including those given to other American allies.
An initial amount of $198 million was set aside for the one-time lump payments for 18,000 veterans who were believed to be what was left of Filipino soldiers and guerillas who fought under American command during the Pacific War.
But it turned out the number was much bigger, prompting the US Congress to replenish the fund. Today, a total of $221 million have been paid out to Filipino veterans here and in the Philippines. There is still $44 million reportedly in the kitty.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs said they received a total of 42,713 applications but rejected 24,220 for various reasons. Only 4,430 of those applicants filed appeals and challenged the grounds for rejection.
Eric Lachica, ACFV executive director, and other veterans activists have blamed the VA’s rigid certification requirements for the large number of denials.
Of the thousands of cases now being looked into by the Board of Veterans Appeals, only 189 (about 4 percent) have been reopened.
They sent copies of letters to various US officials, including one from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dated July 18 to underscore how hard they’ve been trying to reach out to the Pentagon.
“We are working with the staff of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) and the White House Commission on Asian Pacific Americans to update this US Army policy. They look forward to your kind assistance and prompt action as commander-in-chief,” the letter said.