The proposed Filipino Veterans Promise Act was sponsored by Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) , and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY).
The bipartisan panel said the legislation will help assist all Filipino veterans receive the benefits that they earned through their World War II service to the United States.
The bill directs the Department of Defense in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a process for determining whether certain individuals meet the necessary service requirements to receive veterans’ benefits and subsequently be verified as a veteran by the U.S. Army.
“We have heard the stories of how numerous Filipino soldiers were afraid to record their names during World War II for fear the enemy would obtain roster lists and retaliate against them,” said Hirono. “This bill will provide Filipino World War II veterans a process to prove that they indeed served and are eligible for the benefits they’ve been promised. We must now work to ensure every surviving veteran who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American forces receives this well-earned benefit.”
After World War II, the U.S. Army created what is called the “Missouri List” or the Approved Revised Reconstructed Guerilla Roster of 1948, based on individuals who came forward after the war to receive health care. This list has been used by the military to verify those who served alongside U.S. troops in the Philippines.
It is possible that some Filipinos who fought were not added to this list and could be improperly denied benefits, said the lawmakers.
“The Filipino Veterans Promise Act helps fulfill America’s promise and ensures these veterans are treated fairly and with respect,” said Heller.
Following the passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund in 2009, a one-time lump sum payment of $15,000 was given to each eligible veteran living in the U.S. and $9,000 for a veteran based in the Philippines.
However, thousands of claims have been rejected. About 4,200 of them have appealed. They said that the rejection was based on unfair procedures established by the U.S. Army in determining service eligibility.
These veterans are demanding that the Veterans Administration review their appeals process and allow other forms of proof to back up their claims.
“Filipino veterans are entitled to the same recognition and benefits that all former U.S. service members receive,” said Meng. “Filipino veterans made huge sacrifices for America during World War II. They fought side by side with U.S. troops and put their lives on the line to preserve and protect our democracy. It is unconscionable that they continue to be denied the benefits they earned for their service to our country. We must immediately right this wrong and provide Filipino veterans with the benefits that they have been owed for far too long.”
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) applauded the filing of the bill.
Said Chairman JT Mallonga, “We are grateful to Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng for introducing a bill that would ensure that Filipino veterans who fought in World War II receive their rightful benefits.”
While more than 18,000 veterans have already received their benefits, there are thousands more whose claims have been denied and are still waiting, he said.
“That’s mainly because their names were not listed in official rosters maintained by the U.S. Army” he said.