US lawmakers probe vets’ denied claims

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino World War II veterans have more reason to be hopeful, as they continue to fight for their benefits.
Recently, the Congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs plans to investigate the methods used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine whether a Filipino veteran is eligible for lump sum benefits worth $15,000.

The VA denied the claims of some 24,000 Filipino veterans because their names were not on the National Personnel Records Center in Missouri, which burned in 1973, along with the list the VA uses to determine military service.

The VA said they have reconstructed the roster, but the veterans and their advocates said it’s incomplete.

Ago Pedalizo, coordinator for the group, Justice for Filipino American Veterans said, “Our point is, the VA is doing their job on a wrong premise, on a very wrong list. Essentially, it is inherently flawed.”

U.S. Republican Representative Joe Heck of Nevada defends the Filipino veterans, saying they have been unjustly denied, even if they have proof of military service from the Philippine government.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair and Republican Representative of Nevada, Jeff Miller, responded to Heck’s concern with a congressional probe.

Two veterans, 93-year-old Felino Punsalan and 85-year-old Regalado Baldonado were both denied lump sum payments because their names were not found in the Missouri list.

Both have mixed reactions to congress looking into their denied claims.

Baldonado applauds this effort, saying, “I’ve been sending them letters for my claim because I really fought. I served and sacrificed to win America’s war.”

But Punsalan said he chooses not to care anymore, so he won’t end up disappointed. He said, “If I think too much of the hurt it has caused in the past, I’m just the one who will suffer.”
Heck said he hopes for a preliminary report on the congressional probe by June.

Filipino veterans and their advocates say for this congressional probe to work, fellow Filipinos need to do their part, talk to their local representatives and convince them to champion their causes in congress.

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