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Filipino vets file suit vs US, demand full benefits

Seven Filipino World War II veterans on Saturday (Manila time) filed a class suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and demanded for full benefits similar to their American counterparts. Veterans from Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco in California and from Washington D.C. as well filed a class action for court injunction and declaratory relief before the U.S. District Court of Northern California on behalf of 17,000 applicants who were earlier denied of their lump-sum benefits. In the class suit, the veterans questioned the $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed in 2009 by US President Barack Obama, which allotted lower financial benefits to veterans who are non-U.S. citizens. The complainants argued that giving Filipino war veterans benefits less than what other U.S. military veterans receive “violates the equal protection clause of the American Constitution" and deprives the Filipinos of “due process of the benefits that other US veterans enjoy." Under the ARRA, Filipino war veterans who are not U.S. citizens will receive a $9,000 lump sum pay, while U.S. citizens will get $15,000. Several class action lawsuits have been filed in various U.S. districts since the 1950s and the 1960s, but all were dismissed for violating the state of limitation since they were filed out of time. Widows, too In the same class suit, 22 widows of Filipino war veterans likewise asked the US court to let them collect the benefits on behalf of their deceased husbands. The widows argued that the provision in the ARRA excluding veterans who died before the passage of the law is a form of “discrimination." “Their [Filipino war veterans’] deaths cannot erase the fact the fact that they have already rendered active military service and have suffered as a result thereof. They should, therefore, be eligible to claim benefits through their widows as their heirs and representatives," the class suit read. The surviving Filipino war veterans and the widows also asked the U.S. court to compel the USVA to accept new applications for benefits, since the agency’s records are “unreliable" owing to a fire in Missouri in 1973 that supposedly razed millions of military records. Several Filipino war veterans, who applied for benefits under the ARRA, have been turned down by the USVA because their names did not match records kept by the US government’s National Personnel Records Center.—ACC/JV, GMANews.TV