WASHINGTON – As many Filipino veterans are dying off, a new bid has been launched in Congress to aid those who are unable to win recognition and payment for their services to the United States during World War II.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., reintroduced a bill Monday that instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to accept documentation from the Philippine government that the veterans had assisted American forces during the war.
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.
While some veterans missed the September 2010 deadline, others were denied compensation because guerrilla rosters submitted as documentation were rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Personnel Records Center, which is the depository for the service records of individuals.
Heck’s bill would direct the VA to accept the paperwork and to accept one valid document as acceptable proof, rather than multiples, and it would direct the Army to cooperate. It would extend the deadline for eligible veterans to apply. The 2009 law allows a $15,000 payment to eligible Filipino veterans who are now U.S. citizens and $9,000 for those living in the Philippines.
The action comes as World War II veterans continue to pass away. "The "Mighty Five" – Filipino-American veterans from Southern Nevada denied compensation and whose cause was taken up in Las Vegas – have been reduced to two over the past year with the deaths of Augusto Oppus, Romeo Barreras and Silverio Cuaresma.
Barreras died last month at 85. Cuaresma, who was 100, died two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
"Simply put, these men fought so that the Allies could defeat the Japanese in the Pacific," Heck said in a House speech Tuesday. "If they can show they fought, let’s fulfill our promise to them so they can live out their years knowing the United States has officially recognized their service."
In the Senate, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., plans to reintroduce a Filipino veterans compensation bill as work gets under way on the Veterans Affairs committee on which he sits, a spokeswoman said. The Obama administration has convened a group of federal officials from various agencies to look into the issue, but when it would complete its work was unclear.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.Rep. Joe Heck’s bill veterans compensation bill