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06/12/2011: Ambassador Cuisia Presses U.S. Officials to Grant PH Veterans their Benefits

Ambassador Jose Cuisia (2nd from left) discusses the benefits that are due to Filipino World War II veterans pursuant to the 2009 FVEC law with Representative Bob Filner (leftmost) and Secretary Eric Shinseki (rightmost).

06 December 2011, Washington DC. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. met with officials of the U.S. Army, Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), and U.S. Congress last week to argue on behalf of Filipino veterans who have been denied benefits pursuant to the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC), wherein Filipino World War II veterans are given a one–time, lump sum.

In his meeting with Army Deputy Undersecretary Thomas Hawley, Ambassador Cuisia made strong representation for assistance to ensure that no veteran is unjustly denied the benefit due them.  Army officials committed to look into particular compelling cases that the Embassy may wish to bring to their attention, as well as work closely with the DVA to ensure that no one is denied their due benefit because of administrative error.

While the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri is tasked to certify and validate the military service of Filipino veterans using two lists, a Roster and a Discharge List, instances of lapses in the NPRC certification process have been found.  While the Embassy insists that being in either of the list should serve as sufficient proof of service, Army officials stated that the two lists were diligently prepared and are meant to complement each other.  Undersecretary Hawley added that it would be difficult to alter the certification process.

Undersecretary Hawley pointed out that the U.S. Army, through the NPRC, denies certification to any veteran whose name appears in a list of those who collaborated with the Japanese Imperial Army.  He also disclosed that the DVA has the discretion to assess information submitted by veterans and make its own determination. On the issue of veterans who have become U.S. citizens and have been denied the benefits, Mr. Hawley said that requirements for immigration are different from those for veterans’ benefits.

Ambassador Cuisia also met with Representative Bob Filner and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to pursue the matter, in particular to assist about 4,000 veterans who have submitted appeals.  In view of the various sources of Filipino World War II records, Secretary Shinseki said that those from the Adjutant General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines may be acceptable provided they were issued sometime immediately after the war (1947). Sec Shinseki promised to look into pending cases and work closely with all concerned.

For his part, Representative Mike Honda suggested that a comprehensive study be made on this important subject, including the possibility of an executive order to address the concerns.

The 2009 FVEC law grants a one-time lump sum to Filipino veterans in the amount of $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 to non-U.S. citizens. Out of the 42,553 who have applied for the benefit, 18,499 were approved and 24,125 were denied. Of those denied 4,389 filed Notices of Disagreement - the appeals process provided by DVA.

The Embassy’s Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) continues to assist veterans with their appeals and the procurement of needed documents. Veterans in need of assistance may contact the OVA at telephone numbers 202 467-9410 and 202 467-0033, or by email at dlorenzana@gmail.comEND

Ambassador Jose Cuisia (left) is shown in the photo above with Representative Mike Honda.