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LOS ANGELES - A prominent US senator has asked the the Secretary of Defense to help establish a thorough process for Filipino veterans who continue to have a hard time proving they fought in World War II.
US Senator Dean Heller (Republican-Nevada) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Thursday urging him to work with military historians so Filipino WWII veterans can receive proper benefits for their service.
“Filipino soldiers served honorably in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerilla Forces, and New Philippine Scouts alongside US troops during World War II,” wrote Heller addressed to Panetta. “Many of these individuals were included on what is known as the ‘Missouri List,’ which was created at the end of the war to document Filipinos who served alongside the United States.
“Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some individuals who served alongside the US military may not have been included on this list. Because the Department of Veterans Affairs relies solely on this list to determine service, I am concerned that there may be Filipinos unfairly excluded from benefits they earned during World War II.”
It is estimated about 250,000 Filipinos fought alongside US troops during World War II. During this time, Filipinos were legally American nationals. President Franklin Roosevelt promised any Filipinos who fought alongside Americans all the benefits of those serving in the US.
But in 1946, Congress passed the Recession Act which stripped those Filipinos of veterans benefits.
Of the 66 countries allied with the United States during World War II, only Filipinos were denied benefits, said San Francisco Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
For nearly three decades, Filipino soldiers have tried to regain their veterans benefits.
It wasn’t until the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law on February 13, 2009, which contained the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision that Filipino WWII veterans began lining up to get their share of the $198 million equity compensation or about a lump sum payment $15,000 or $9,000 each depending on the residency of the veteran.
However, receiving the claim to some has proven very difficult.
In order to receive the payment, the Filipino veteran must prove he is in the “Missouri List,” an Army database of eligible veterans. Some Filipino veterans who fought during WWII weren’t recognized as fighting with US soldiers since they fought in different units.
As of December 29,2011, more than 24,000 claims from Filipino WWII veterans have been denied, About 4,000 veterans have pending appeals with Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
Since many of the veterans are all in their 80s and 90s, some in frail health, time is of the essence.
“The United States must make every effort to ensure that those individuals who served are properly recognized for their contributions to our nation,” wrote Heller.
“That is why I am respectfully asking the Department of Defense in coordination with military historians to establish a process to open the Missouri List to give Filipinos the opportunity to prove their service.”
The senator has asked Panetta to respond to his request by August 20, 2012.