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Filipino-American WWII vets still await payment


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hundreds of Filipino-American World War II veterans in Hawaii waiting for lump-sum payments are frustrated over delays caused by a staff shortage.

Members of the WWII Filipino-American Veterans-Hawaii Chapter are calling for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to accelerate the process, saying months has passed after they were expected to receive their checks.

“;We are losing hope,”; said President Art Caleda.

About 550 veterans in Hawaii had filed claims as of June. Of that figure, 15 veterans who suffered wounds in battle have received their payment, but the remaining are still waiting.

According to Caleda, a representative from the VA told them checks were to arrive in June. When the checks did not arrive, veterans were told it would take another six to nine months.

A staff shortage at the National Personnel Records Center in Missouri, where personnel verify whether the U.S. citizen filing a claim is a veteran, is one of the main factors causing the delay, according to officials now working to increase personnel.

In February, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, authorizing the release of a one-time, lump-sum payment to Philippine WWII veterans who fought alongside U.S. forces in defending the country. The act entitles veterans who are U.S. citizens to receive $15,000. Veterans who are non-U.S. citizens will receive $9,000. An estimated 6,000 veterans reside in the U.S., while an estimated 12,000 veterans reside in the Philippines.

The population of Filipino-American WWII veterans has dwindled over the years. About 30 veterans in Hawaii have died since February. “;The long process is ridiculous,”; said Caleda. “;The veterans cannot wait.”;

VA officials could not be reached for comment.

Claims for Filipino-American veterans being lumped together with non-U.S. citizens is another factor in the delay as veterans living in the Philippines outnumber those in the U.S., according to advocates.

All claims for both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens are being processed at the Veteran Affairs' Manila regional office.

Advocate Nic Musico said claims filed by Filipino-American veterans should be processed in the U.S. rather than in the Philippines. They have to go through an extra step of being verified as a U.S. citizen through the regional office.

Veterans were already adjudicated when they became U.S. citizens, said Musico.

“;The current process doesn't make any sense at all.”;