Obama Action On Vets Hailed
By ROY C. MABASA
MANILA, Philippines --- Members of the United States Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have praised the administration of President Barack Obama for the creation of a new Interagency Working Group that will ensure that Filipino World War II veterans receive thorough and fair reviews when applying for compensation from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget, has announced on Wednesday the launch of an Interagency Working Group (IWG), drawing on officials from Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, the Army, and the National Archives and Record Administration.
The IWG will focus on ensuring that all applications by Filipino veterans are reviewed thoroughly and fairly.
According to California Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and co-sponsor of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, during World War II, over 250,000 Filipinos fought under the command of the US military.
"I am committed to honoring these veterans for their service and ensuring that they receive the full benefits promised to them by the US government," said Chu in a statement.
She noted that veterans and advocates have fought for over six decades to earn recognition and compensation for Filipino veterans, and the issue has long been a top priority for CAPAC.
Meanwhile, Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Akaka lauded Obama for launching the new initiative to make sure all of these honorable veterans and their families receive the benefits awarded to them by Congress.
“The Filipino WWII veterans fought honorably and bravely under U.S. command and deserve to be remembered for their deeds," Akaka stated. "They fought for us and I have fought for them consistently over my career."
California Rep. Mike Honda, CAPAC Chair Emeritus, noted that after more than sixty years of unrelenting resistance by the federal government "we are finally witnessing significant strides to restore justice to the Filipino veterans."
“Over the past decade, and during my seven-year tenure as Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Filipino American veterans and the unwavering communities that support them were a top priority for me," Honda said. "I’ve fought for the brave Filipino World War II veterans throughout their struggle to gain full recognition of their courageous service to the United States and receive their promised and long-overdue benefits."
He pointed out that in the first days of Obama’s presidency, he signed into law the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 which contained a provision that created the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensations Fund, which has approved over 18,000 claims to date.
"Now, with today’s announcement that the Obama Administration is creating an Interagency Working Group, President Obama shows that he continues to be a true champion for the Filipino World War II veterans," he declared.
Another California representative, Jackie Speier, stressed that many Filipino veterans are still facing barriers to filing claims or believe that their claims were wrongly denied.
“I support the administration’s efforts to ensure that VA claims and benefits are properly managed for Filipino Veterans of World War II," Spier said. "Ultimately, Congress needs to act to ensure that Filipino World War II veterans and their families are entitled to full benefits and compensation for their service, not the negotiated half-settlement currently afforded to them."
Spier explained that "Filipinos were American nationals when they fought in the war and they were promised full benefits by President Franklin D. Roosevelt."
"A promise made, should be a promise kept," the California congresswoman said. "We have broken our promise and it’s time to make amends.” (Roy Mabasa)