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Fil-Am WWII vets' widows file class suit vs. US gov’t

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After 64 years of denial of full recognition from the U.S. government, Filipino-American World War II veterans and widows on Friday filed a class lawsuit against the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) demanding payments of their benefits.

The case was filed by lawyer Amedo Valera, lead attorney of the complainants, before the Northern California Federal District Court in San Francisco. Valera is also the co-executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission.

In their complaint, the veterans and their widows said that “the lump sum, provided to the veterans two years ago, was discriminatory, partial and unconstitutional, which leaves them no other option but to pursue litigation.”

CA Senator Leland Yee promised to sponsor a resolution for full equity, saying “the lawsuit puts another pressure on Congress to act on it.”

Delegates from Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington DC and San Francisco converged at the site to demand court injunction and declaratory relief on the 17,000 applicants who were denied of their lump sums.

They also seek compensation for most of the widows who were denied in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC).

World War II veteran Nestor Punsalan, now in his twilight years at 93, said that he was denied of the lump sum due to his non-inclusion in the US official list, otherwise known as the “Missouri List.”

“I have served the US and offered my life in the line of duty, why am I not getting the lump sum that I deserve?” Punsalan asked.

Valera explained that outside the question of recognition, the lawsuit also highlights the discrimination suffered by the Filipino veterans.

The FVEC provided a one-time lump sum of US$ 15,000 for US citizens and US$ 9,000 for non-US citizens. He added that the “quit claim” provision will be questioned in court, too, as this will preclude efforts to pursue full equity in Congress.

Organizations supporting the lawsuit and full equity include the Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV), Association of Widows, Advocates and Relatives for Equality (AWARE), Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), Veterans for Peace (VFP), American Legions, ANSWER Coalition, Barrio Unidos, Filipino Lawyers Organization of Washington (FLOW) and Washington State WW II Veterans and Widows. Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, Mike Honda-D-San Jose promised to co-sponsor equity bill in Congress early next year. The Daly City Council approved unanimously full equity resolution. Carson City Council and San Francisco Board of Supervisors are expected to adopt the same resolution soon.

During WW II, the Philippines was a colony of the US and Filipinos were considered US nationals. On July 26, 1941, some 250,000 Filipinos were conscripted as part of the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) that owe allegiance to the US President and Commander-in-Chief Franklin Roosevelt. The Filipinos were given promise of equal treatment as any American veterans after the war.

In 1946, through the Rescission Act, the US Congress took away the benefits and recognition of the Filipino World War II veterans and families out of the 66 nationalities who fought under the US Flag. In the GI Bill of 2008, many veterans received expanded benefits. The US Congress, for the second time, denied full recognition and full benefits to Filipino veterans. (PNA)





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