MARIA, SIQUIJOR — The United States government is continuing to process claims of Filipino-American World War II veterans under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Benefit Program.
US Embassy Charge D’ Affairs Leslie Basset told reporters here that the processing of documents started after the deadline for applications closed in February last year.
“We are just finishing the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Benefit Program,” Basset said, adding that funds will be released to qualified beneficiaries “as soon as they finish with all the applications.” She did not give a time frame.
Basset was here in Siquijor Friday to lead the US delegation in the funeral of slain US Army Sgt. Zainah Caye Creamer, a military dog handler who was killed by Afghanistan insurgents in Kandahar in an improvised bomb attack last January 12.
The honors given to Creamer, Basset said, is an honor that the military affords to people who have given their life in active duty. “She is certainly a hero to our eyes and we’re very proud to be in the Philippines honoring an American hero just as our soldiers have fought together since World War II and shoulder to shoulder. This is another instance of our two countries sharing the same dreams with the same sacrifices to make those dreams real.”
A few months ago, the US Congress allocated additional money to make sure we have enough for every single veteran, Basset said, apparently referring to the final version of the Supplemental Appropriations Act passed by the US Congress last July. It includes a rider that provides $67 million in additional funding for the Filipino veterans’ lump sum claims.
Veterans Administration records show that more than 16,000 claims have been already been paid as of July 2010, amounting to $190 million. The VA only has $8 million left in the lump sum fund, with only 4,000 claims left to process.
Basset also announced that the US government has also opened a new clinic for the veterans last February 1st and a new office for the Veterans Administration “so that we can continue to offer high quality service to all the veterans living in the Philippines who are qualified for benefits.”
The new outpatient clinic, with modern facilities and state-of-the-art laboratories, is accredited by the College of American Pathologists.
More than 250,000 Filipinos served alongside U.S. soldiers to defend the Philippines, which was then part of American territory, from the 1941 Japanese invasion. They formed the resistance during the subsequent Japanese occupation.
The U.S. military assured Filipinos they would be able to apply for U.S. citizenship and qualify for full U.S. veterans’ benefits if they served. But one year after Japan’s surrender, the Rescission Act of 1946 declared that Filipinos were not in active service for the U.S. military during the war.
This stripped Filipinos of their status as U.S. veterans and denied them the benefits they were promised. On the other hand, those who could not be denied benefits outright did receive them but at the reduced rate of 50-cents for every dollar Americans received.
An American Congresswoman, meanwhile, has filed House Bill HR 210, also known as the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011. Saying there is no such thing as a half-citizen, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D, San Francisco and San Mateo) said her Bill would effectively repeal the Rescission Act and give Filipino-American veterans and their widows full benefits. This still has to be debated in Congress.
Reports from the US quoted Speier as saying that the bill is asking for nothing more and nothing less than what was promised to them, underscoring the fact that, among non-American nationals that fought beside the US in WWII, only Filipino veterans have been singled out for such discriminatory treatment. The bill would end 65 years of institutionalized discrimination.