Filipino veteran testifies at House congressional committee

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

WASHINGTON, DC – For many years now, 97-year-old Filipino World War II Veteran Celestino Almeda has fought for full military benefits for him and thousands of his pinoy comrades.

Almeda is among those who testified before the House Armed Services Committee earlier today in Washington, DC.

In his testimony, Almeda said that he is an unfortunate example of how the VA and the US Army have repeatedly denied claims for full recognition of Filipino veterans, despite the fact that his name and his US Armed Forces Service documents existed in the US Army archives since 1946.

He says they were withheld from him and were only released two years ago.

Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans who also testified before the House committee said that while the US Congress approriated $265 million for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) in 2009 – some 4,552 Filipino veterans were still denied compensation of $15,000 each.

Lachica cited three major problems surrounding the Filipino Veteran eligibility determination process.

He said the VA Secretary relies solely on the National Personnel Record Center in Missouri as proof of their service. But he said the NPRC archives are incomplete.

He also said the US Army fails to grant the Filipino vets their benefits even if their names are found on recognized rosters of guerrillas.

Lachica finally said there is widespread fraud reported in the secret “US Army Recognition Program of Philippine Guerrillas”, a US Army report declassified in 1988. He said as a result, the US Army revoked almost 40,000 recognized guerrillas who were earlier recognized.

Lachica says this may be a major factor why there still 4,500 remaining claimants today.

Lachica ended his testimony by asking the House committee to individually recognize these Filipino manongs if they meet certain criteria such as a discharge document certified by the Philippine government Veterans Affairs Administrator; use of Philippine Guerilla service documents; and as long as the veteran can show that he was not involved in any disloyalty to the US or fraud from the Philippine military.

Lachica, a son of a Filipino American World War II veteran said that he wants to send a strong message to the Army, NORC and VA.

“No more denials, no delays and no more deaths for our Filipino veterans,” he said.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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  • kikay Pang0
    1 August 2014 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Those Filipino Vets who were denied for cash and benefits are on the list at Missouri Record Center as War Collaborators. …. Enough with this bogus and fake claims .

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