Fil-Am groups squabble over Filvet issues

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LOS ANGELES – Filipino-American organizations are squabbling with one another over the direction of the denied claims of Filipino World War II Veterans (Filvets).

Earlier this week, the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), one of the leading advocates for Filvets, criticized the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) for the latter’s support of President Barack Obama and the Interagency Working Group that was tasked with analyzing denied Filipino veterans eligibility for compensation.

About 43,000 Filvets in the US and the Philippines applied for the $15,000 or $9,000 lump sum compensation (depending on residential status), but more than half of those Filvets have been denied.

A little more than 4,000 Filvets that were denied will be given another chance at eligibility by the Interagency Working Group.

“By accepting that only 4,000 Filipino veterans deserve review for their claims, [NaFFAA Chairman Ed] Navarra had toed the [US Department of Veterans Affairs] anti-Filipino veterans line and consigned the more than 24, 000 Filipino veterans claims to oblivion,” said Art P. Garcia, national coordinator of JFAV.

JFAV issued the statement a few weeks after NaFFAA released a statement welcoming President Obama to the Philippines and thanking him for his work with the Filvets’ issue. Obama is set to visit the Philippines on October 11 and 12.

Incidentally, Filipino-American History Month is celebrated in the US for the whole month of October.

“It is very hypocritical for an organizational to praise the President for an act that continually denies veterans and survivors complete recognition and benefits,” Garcia said.

NaFFAA Communications Director Jon Melegrito said Garcia’s gripe is “nothing new.”

“They have always been critical of our efforts. I can understand where they are coming from,” Melegrito told the Asian Journal.

“This veteran issue has been contentious for a long time. I know that different advocacy groups have always fought hard to win full equity for Filipino veterans. They have to be commended for fighting hard over the years to win full equity for veterans but realistically, we have to know the limitations of our lobbying efforts.”

“There’s only so much Congress can do,” Melegrito said. “The actions of Obama is commendable because he attempted some remedies and ways of providing denied veterans a way to appeal.”

The DVA has denied more than 24,000 Filvets claims because it could not verify or authenticate those Filipino veterans’ military paperwork. The VA uses the Missouri List, and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to determine veterans’ eligibility.

Obama created the Interagency Working Group in 2012 to help Filvets, who were denied eligibility that their applications received a thorough and fair review.

Melegrito said there are 11 pending bills in Congress that directly deal with denied Filvets, to have their appeals heard by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

(LA Weekend September 28 – October 1, 2013 Sec A pg.5)

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