White House says review of veterans’ claims done with ‘greater transparency’

More than 18,000 veterans’ claims have been approved out of 45,991 applications processed as of July 1 2013.

More than 18,000 veterans’ claims have been approved out of 45,991 applications processed as of July 1 2013.

By Rosye Cloud

In 1941, more than 260,000 Filipino soldiers responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-arms and fought under the American flag during World War II.  Many made the ultimate sacrifice as both soldiers in the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, and as recognized guerrilla fighters during the Imperial Japanese occupation of the Philippines.  Later, many of these brave individuals became proud United States citizens.  However, because of the Rescission Acts of 1946, most Filipino World War II veterans did not receive compensation on par with United States veterans for their service to the United States.

President Obama recognizes the extraordinary contribution made by Filipino veterans. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the President signed into law, included a provision creating the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. Eligible veterans who are U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $15,000; eligible veterans who are not U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $9,000.

To date, we are pleased that over 18,000 claims have been approved. However, many Filipino veterans still believe that their claims were improperly denied, or that they did not receive a satisfactory explanation as to why their claims were denied.  To address these concerns, in October 2012, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in collaboration with the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council, created the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund Interagency Working Group (IWG) comprised of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Record Administration.  The IWG was tasked with analyzing the process faced by these Filipino veterans in demonstrating eligibility for compensation in order to ensure that all applications receive thorough and fair review.

Over the last seven months, the IWG has worked toward increased transparency and a thorough accounting of the process to verify valid military service for Filipino World War II veterans. This effort culminates in the reports that follow from each member of the IWG.  This effort represents the first time all organizations involved in the verification process were brought together to examine the process from start to finish, and publicly post a collaborative report explaining each organization’s role in the verification process.  In addition to clarifying the claims process, the IWG digitized and made available online for the first time a report titled, “U.S. Army Recognition Program of Philippine Guerrillas.” This crucial report explains how the recognition process was developed at the close of World War II.  Most significantly, the Army publicly states their careful reasoning behind the current policies on service verification.

Detailed information from each agency is provided below.  The IWG’s goal was to increase transparency and accelerate processing of claims within the existing framework.  Some highlights:

  • VA created a special team dedicated to FVEC appeals and will obtain copies of certain Philippine Army documents from the Adjutant General of the Philippines.
  • The United States Army remains confident in the current process to determine valid service.  The Army has developed more detailed response letters for requests for service determination that explain why an application was denied.  These letters are already in use.

Though the IWG’s work concludes here, we hope these reports provide the transparency needed to understand the service verification process for Filipino World War II veterans appealing their claims.   This is part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country.

Rosye Cloud is the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families at the White House. This article originally appeared on the website of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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