WASHINGTON — Filipino veterans seeking long-delayed compensation for helping the United States fight World War II would receive help documenting their service under a bill revived Tuesday in Congress.
The “Filipino Veterans Promise Act” directs the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs to consult with military historians and establish a process to determine whether individuals qualify for benefits if they are not on an already-approved list.
Congress in 2009 authorized one-time payments to Filipinos who served as soldiers, guerrillas and scouts alongside U.S. forces fighting the Japanese. More than 41,000 claims were filed but only 12,600 were found eligible.
The Revised Reconstructed Guerrilla Roster, also known as the “Missouri List,” that was compiled after World War II listed 260,000 Filipino veterans and served as the basis for compensation. But the U.S. list has been criticized as incomplete as the Philippine government continued to add to it.
Additionally, a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo., destroyed 80 percent of records for Army servicemen discharged between 1912 and 1960.
The bill was reintroduced by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. A similar Heller bill stalled in the last Congress following a split in Nevada’s Filipino-American community between supporters of Heller and his campaign opponent, then-Rep. Shelley Berkley.
“Nevada is home to brave Filipino veterans who served during World War II and have never been properly recognized for the sacrifices they made on our behalf,” Heller said.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., introduced a bill in February requiring the VA to accept documentation from the Philippine government that the veterans had assisted Americans.
Heck said there was urgency to the issue since many Filipino veterans are dying off. Three of the five Filipino veterans from Southern Nevada died in the past year.
A spokeswoman said Heller took a different approach believing it has the best chance to become law.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.