Claiming Veterans' benefits under Obama's stimulus package - Atty. Mike Templo

By ATTY. MIKE TEMPLO

Posted at Feb 28 2009 02:47 AM | Updated as of Feb 28 2009 10:47 AM

Last Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or more commonly known as the Economic Stimulus Plan. This plan contains a provision that includes a one-time, lump-sum payment to eligible World War II Filipino Veterans. One Hundred Ninety Eight Million has been appropriated to benefit around 18,000 Filipino Veterans living in the United States and in the Philippines.

The basis of the amount the eligible Veteran is entitled to receive is his or her U.S. Citizenship, and it must be noted that this will not affect existing Veterans benefits currently being received. Thus, Veterans who are U.S. Citizens will be entitled to receive $15,000, even if they are residing in the Philippines, while non-U.S. Citizen Veterans will be entitled to receive $9,000.

Listed below are the Filipino Veterans eligible to receive the additional benefits:

1. Persons who served before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, while such forces were in the service of the Armed Forces of the United States;
2. Members of the organized guerrilla forces under commanders appointed, designated, or subsequently recognized by the Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, or other competent authority in the Army of the United States;
3. Persons who served in the Philippine Scouts under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Voluntary Recruitment Act of 1945;

To be eligible for the new benefit, service members in each of the three categories above must have been discharged or released from service under conditions other than dishonorable.

All claims shall be applied at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Manila Regional Office located at the U.S. Embassy Manila by the Filipino World War II Veteran himself. But if the veteran is unable to do so personally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Manila Regional Office will arrange to obtain the application in an appropriate manner. Claims from spouses, widows or children of the Filipino Veterans will not be accepted.

However, due to age and difficulty of the Filipino Veterans to personally go to the U.S. Embassy and fill out the application form, the procedure has been relaxed. Now, any representative of the Filipino Veteran may obtain the application form at the U.S. Embassy. As early as six (6) in the morning, forms are available by the gate. Have the veteran fill it out, sign it then mail out the application form with the following documents (if applicable):

1. Two forms of identification such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, Senior Citizen ID, Bureau of Post ID, Voter ID Card;
2. Copies of any military discharge documents showing service in one of the three qualifying types of service;
3. Your Philippines Veterans Affairs Office claim number;
4. Your Philippines Veterans Affairs Pension bank account number;
5. Your U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claim number; and
6. U.S. citizens should bring your U.S. passport.

All claims should be mailed out to the address listed below:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office – Manila
U.S. Embassy
1131 Roxas Boulevard
Manila, Philippines 0930

A letter will be sent to the address of the veteran as indicated in the application form confirming the receipt of the form and that the claim is being evaluated and processed. Should additional requirements such as documents or personal appearance be requested from the veteran, the Embassy will communicate through a letter.

All claims should be filed not later than February 16, 2010, one (1) year after the enactment of this law. In the event that the veteran passes while waiting for the release of the payment, the benefit will be given to his beneficiary as long as a claim has been previously filed.

If you have further questions or clarifications with regard to the procedure, you can contact the U.S. Embassy with these telephone numbers (632) 528-2500 or 1-800-1-5252 (toll free for callers outside M. Manila).

Atty. Michael Templo is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York State and Federal Courts and is a partner at Templo & Templo with offices in New York, USA and Makati City, Philippines. Atty. Templo specializes in US Immigration matters. The discussion above is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional. For your comments and questions, Atty. Templo can be reached at [email protected] or log on to www.templolaw.com.